10 Days for Office 2010: Word 2010 and Accessibility

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Word MVP Karen McCall as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "10 Days for Office 2010" series. 


My name is Karen McCall and I am an MVP for Word. I have a disability and use the JAWS screen reader to access information on my computer. Sometimes I use the on-board Magnifier in Windows 7. Magnifier in Win 7 has the ability to work in full screen mode or lens mode which are the tools that third party screen magnification tools have. The quality of magnification is great...and is improved. I may also use voice recognition or digital ink on my tablet. Because of the work Microsoft has done to make Office applications accessible I am, for the most part, able to choose a tool for a task that I am doing rather than a tool for a disability.

This brings me to Office 2010 and two new tools that will make a huge difference to document authors. First, the ability to perform an accessibility check on your documents and second, the ability to provide expansions for acronyms. Larry has outlined in detail how the accessibility checker works so my blog will focus on the acronym tool and how I leverage the implementation of headings and contextual links in Word documents..

The Acronym Tool

The Acronym tool is found under the Accessibility/DAISY Ribbon. It is a tool for creating DAISY books or Digital Accessible Information System books for people with disabilities.


In a Word document it allows you to create a list of acronyms and their expanded text so that anyone reading the document and not being familiar with the acronyms used in the document can quickly review the meaning of the acronym.

It is NOT just a tool that can be used by people with disabilities or for the creation of DAISY books.


Figure 1 Accessibility Ribbon.

Locating the Acronym Tool

To find the acronym tool press Alt + Y, then C to open the Create Acronym dialog or G to open the list of acronyms in the current document if you have acronyms identified.


Figure 2 Acronym Group.

Creating an Acronym Entry

It is easy to create a list of acronyms for your document. The first step is to type the acronym into the document.

To mark an acronym entry:

1. Select the acronym.

2. Press Alt + Y, C.

3. This opens the Manage Acronym dialog.

4. Your focus is in the edit area where you type the expanded text for the acronym. For example Royal Canadian Mounted Police with RCMP selected in the document.

5. Press Tab to check the check box to use this acronym in the entire document.

a. Use the Spacebar to check or uncheck this option.

6. Press Tab again to have the acronym pronounced in the resulting DAISY book. If you are not creating a DAISY book from your document ignore this check box.

7. Tab to the Mark button and press Enter.

8. The Acronym is now in the list of acronyms for this document.


Figure 3 Manage Acronyms dialog.

Viewing Acronyms in the Document

You can view your list of acronyms anytime by pressing Alt + Y, G. This opens the Manage Acronyms dialog.


Figure 4 Manage Acronym dialog showing list of Acronyms.

Note that both the dialog for marking an acronym entry and viewing the acronyms are called the same thing, however they have different elements.


If a document author uses heading styles and the headings are applied in hierarchical order, someone using the JAWS screen reader can get a list of headings in the document. The figure below shows the list of headings from Word for the previous article on Acronyms.


Figure 5 List of headings in a Word document from the JAWS screen reader.

Someone can press Enter on any of these headings and go directly to the content and begin reading. If headings in a document are purely visual and are not based on the inherent headings in Word, this is not possible because adaptive technology will see the formatted text as a normal paragraph.

Notice in the preceding image that the level of heading is also identified. This is why it is important to have the headings in their hierarchical order...they provide the structure for content.


When we create documents that have links to other documents or to web resources such as this article does, it is important to provide contextual links. Contextual links let someone using a screen reader get a list of links in a document and move quickly to that content. The following image shows the links in this article before I added the headings and links content.


Figure 6 List of contextual links in a Word document.

If the URL's had been added without using context someone who cannot see the document would encounter a list of links like the one shown below.


Figure 7 List of non-contextual links in a document.

Someone using a screen reader has to listen to all of the information for each link in order to find out where the link leads. If the filename is obscure they have no idea where the link will take them.

If contextual links are used someone can navigate to the link they need, press Enter and go directly to that content and begin reading.


With the accessibility checker and the acronym tool, document authors can check their documents for the accessibility features they've implemented. Accessibility checkers are mechanical tools and are not a substitute for implementing well designed documents. The accessibility checker should be used in collaboration with the document author.

The acronym tool, while on the Accessibility/DAISY Ribbon is a tool that everyone can use to make their documents more readable and accessible.

By implementing proper heading styles and contextual links, document authors can improve the access to their document content by people with disabilities using adaptive technology.

This blog article has Alt text for images. Captions have been used so that if the page is printed out and the images are not clear, someone has access to a description of the images. This is a web based document however in a Word document footnotes or endnotes would be used to provide the long URL's in the event that the document were printed and taken to a meeting. Unfortunately there isn't paper yet that you can activate a link from or view the Alt Text for images..yet!

About the Author

Karen McCall, M.Ed. has written books on how to use Microsoft Office applications with the JAWS screen reader or from the keyboard. She owns Karlen Communications which provides consulting and training for accessible document design, accessible PDF documents and Section 508 or AODA/Accessible Ontarians with Disabilities legislation.



Cross posted at The Office Blog

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