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Create an accessible Office document

Six screen views; complicated with lots of elements versus tidy with simple text and graphics, dense paragraphs versus text split up with lots of white space, dense paragraphs versus bulleted lists

Avoid crowded screens. There are several ways you can make your documents easier to read.
Callout 1 A busy screen versus a tidy one.
Callout 2 Dense paragraphs versus lots of white space.
Callout 3 Dense paragraphs versus bulleted lists.

Cognitive and language disabilities range from dyslexia to difficulties remembering, solving problems, or understanding sensory information. There are also people who have problems comprehending and using language. For people who have these disabilities, complex or inconsistent visual displays or word choices can make using computers more difficult.

These tips for writing documents are excellent for people with cognitive disabilities. But they are also good guidelines for writing documents for all audiences:

  • Use lots of white space. Place blocks of text with lots of white space around them. Put an extra empty line between paragraphs.
  • Avoid 'busy' screens. Too much going on in one page can be complicated to understand. For instance, don't have lots of highly colored graphics, and text, and different fonts, and animations on one page.
  • A bulleted or numbered list is easier to read and comprehend than a dense paragraph.

So make the text appear clear without lots of clutter. Concentrate on being precise without using complicated sentence structure. Use short sentences.

Avoid animated text, where the text or images around the text move. Even slow movement can render the text unreadable for some people with cognitive disabilities. If you feel that there is no way to avoid animated text, then make sure you include the same information in plain text.

You will use some of these ideas in the practice session that follows.

Uncluttered, easy to read documents will get more attention than complicated documents. This is an easy way to increase your audience. Another advantage is that simple documents load faster—making documents simple for accessibility actually improves them for everyone.

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