March 25, 2021

Creating Accessible Documents with Ease

Jen Goulden | Accessibility Compliance Specialist

Why is Accessibility Important?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted, with 39 million being blind and 246 million having low vision. (Medicine).

For many of us, plotting through websites and reading online documents is a relatively easy task. But for the estimated 32.2 million people in the United States with a visual disability due to low vision or blindness, using a screen reader for tasks like these can be daunting (AFB).

People who use screen readers regularly receive messages like “unlabeled button” or “figure3.jpg” in place of descriptive content they need to navigate websites and documents. Let’s say you’re doing some online banking and you’ve just initiated a payment. You must then choose either to confirm or cancel the transaction.  What do you do if the buttons aren’t labelled, and you can’t tell which button is which? This is what a screen reader user experiences when elements such as links, buttons and images are not properly tagged.

Making documents and web pages accessible for the blind and partially sighted is a legal requirement.  It gives individuals who use a screen reader the ability to:

  • Listen to and navigate through documents.
  • Utilize document styles to jump from one part of a document to another.
  • Hear alternate text descriptions applied to pictures and images.

The challenge for most organizations is twofold.  First, not having the staff who understand what makes a document accessible and second, not knowing how to write the content and design the document to make it accessible.  That’s where AccessibilityNow® WeCo for Microsoft® Office Word can help any organization create accessible documents.

AccessibilityNow® WeCo Plug-in for Microsoft Office Suite

It’s no secret that Microsoft Word has accessibility features built in, but the AccessibilityNow WeCo plugin makes it more efficient than ever to create accessible documents. Most remediation tools involve tagging PDF files to make them accessible, and this is a huge benefit to remediation specialists and end users alike. However, there are many advantages to using a plugin for Word to ensure that your documents are accessible and compliant with all relevant legislation.

To begin with, most people have some knowledge of Microsoft word, and plugins are generally straightforward to set up and use. Once it is installed the user can simply open Microsoft Word and click on the WeCo tab to get started. This means that there is less of a learning curve for employees in your organization who are tasked with creating accessible documents. You’ll be able to create accessible documents in-house, which can eliminate the need to outsource remediation.

Here are some other capabilities of the AccessibilityNow WeCo application:

  • The wizard-driven user interface guides users through the process of creating and validating accessible documents.
  • Intuitive menus, particularly for users who are familiar with Microsoft Word.
  • Accessible Word and PDF files can be created by users.
  • Word styles are not required.
  • Automatic generation of WCAG compliant PDF documents.
  • Standardize document preferences across the enterprise to ensure consistency.
  • Create accessible documents in-house to save both time and money.
  • Verify document accessibility and compliance before publishing.

Finally, the AccessibilityNow WeCo user interface is accessible to screen readers, meaning that blind and partially sighted users can create and verify their own accessible content. By enabling end users to play an active role in this process the WeCo plugin takes document accessibility to a whole new level!