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Making electronic documents accessible

These resources can help make sure your documents are accessible to everyone.


Document accessibility applies to all documents created for citizens or state employees, whether they are posted to a web site, a file sharing application (such as SharePoint) or distributed through email. When you follow accessibility standards, your document can be accessed by everyone, regardless of physical abilities.

Microsoft Office products, with the exception of Visio, can be accessible when they are used for their intended purpose. Always use:

  • Microsoft Word as a word processing and layout tool
  • Microsoft PowerPoint as a presentation tool
  • Microsoft Excel as a spreadsheet tool
  • In general, accessible documents have:

    • Structural formatting, like headings, tables and lists that allow users to navigate the document.
    • Descriptive text that explains pictures, charts and graphs to users.
    • Layout, design and color that makes the content accessible to use and understand.

    The principal concepts of document accessibility will help you meet the State of Minnesota accessibility standard.

    The instructions outlined in the Resources section relate specifically to Microsoft Word documents, but the same basic concepts can be applied to all Microsoft Office programs. Additional formatting and settings will be needed to make Adobe PDF documents accessible.

    Did you know?

    Accessible documents open faster on mobile devices.


Word Documents

Making electronic Word documents accessible

If you create electronic documents, this Word training program, available in video, text, and audio versions demonstrate proper formatting for text, images, charts and graphs, accessible tables and forms:

This course was developed by the State of Minnesota to help state employees meet accessibility standards, and focuses on how state employees can use Microsoft Word 2010 to create accessible documents. The concepts outlined in this course reflect the accessibility standards identified for all State of Minnesota documents, and can be applied to other Microsoft Office products, such as Excel and PowerPoint.

Other Resources

Creating Accessible Word Documents: a link to Microsoft’s online accessibility guidance 

Microsoft Style Basics: Instructions for using the Styles feature on Microsoft's website.


PDF Documents

Creating accessible PDF documents

The PDF (portable document format) is a good way to deliver complex or heavily formatted electronic documents such as manuals, guidelines, and technical references.

We recommend that you take a training course before attempting to perform any conversions to PDF. Even better: establish a workflow at your department or agency to funnel PDF conversion and testing through trained staff.

If you're that person, here are some useful references:

Office of Accessibility resources

Other Resources

(Note: the State of Minnesota has a statewide contract to provide PDF creators with Adobe Acrobat Pro. To ensure that you have access to the most current version (XI) check with your agency's Adobe Coordinator.)