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Microsoft Word 2000-2003 Documents

It is important to make these changes to Word documents to accommodate a variety of disabilities. For example, many people with visual disabilities use screen readers. This technology works best when you use Headings and Styles (as explained below) – the text will then have a coherent structure which will be more accurately interpreted by screen readers. Considerations made for print documents will go a long way to help people with visual disabilities, as well as people who do not have any disability. By following these guidelines, you can make a print document much easier for someone to read and decipher it.


For print documents:

  • Use large text size – between 12 and 18 points
  • Use a sans serif font – such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana
  • Make sure that all information conveyed with colour can also be conveyed without colour
  • Don’t crowd your text – use appropriate letter spacing
  • Using italics or upper-case letters for emphasis is not recommended
  • Space between the lines should be at least 25 to 30% of the point size
  • Use a matte/non-glossy finish
  • Use appropriate colour contrast
  • If your document is text heavy, consider separating it in columns

For electronic documents:

Appropriate Use of Colour

When using colour, you must make sure that any information conveyed with colour is also conveyed in black and white. For example, if you’re using colour to identify key words in a document, make sure that you also make them stand out in another way (for example, by putting them in bold; italics are not recommended).

Colour Contrast

You must provide high colour contrast to the text in your document. A good example of high colour contrast is black and white; while an example of poor colour contrast is light yellow and white.


Styles are formatting instructions automatically programmed into Word. Styles are used in lieu of the buttons on the toolbar (for example, the “Bold” button, or the “Bullets” button). Use them to create:

  • Titles (using the “Title” style)
  • Headings (using one of nine “Heading” styles)
  • Subtitles (using the “Subtitle” style)
  • Bulleted Lists (using one of five different “List Bullet” styles)
  • Numbered Lists (using one of five different “List Number” styles)
  • Words in italics (using the “Emphasis” style)
  • Words in bold (using the “Strong” style)
  • Underlined words (using the “Subtle Reference” style)

To use a style in Microsoft Word 2000 – 2003:

  1. Go to toolbar. Click “Format”.
  2. In the menu, select “Styles and Formatting”. A menu of the different styles will appear on the right side of the screen.
  3. Before typing in any text, select the style you would like to use.
  4. For example, click on “Title” if you wish to create a title. Type in your title. Press enter, and your text will revert to the “Normal” (default) style. From here, you can continue using the appropriate styles. For instance, you could start writing your text in the “Normal” style, or you may want to create a heading. To create a heading, click on a “Heading” style, and then put in your text.

To modify a style in Microsoft Word 2000 – 2003:

  1. Right Click on the icon of the particular style in the menu.
  2. Select “Modify”. A new window will open.
  3. Click “Format” (found in the bottom left corner of the window).
  4. In the pop-up menu, select the change you wish to make. For example, if you wish to change the written text, select “Font”.
  5. Changes which are made to one style will appear throughout the document where that particular style is used.


Headings are a type of Style which make it easier for various adaptive technologies to navigate a document. Many people do not create Headings correctly, either making titles bigger or in bold rather than using the formats already provided by Word. By using the Headings provided by Word, you are creating a real structure in your document which will be correctly read by assistive technology. In Microsoft Word, there are several different styles of Headings to choose from. See the instructions on how to use/modify Styles to learn how to incorporate Headings into your text.

Alternative Text

Any pictures, graphs or text boxes within a document must be given alternative text. Alternative text must give an accurate description of what the item is, so that the user’s assistive technology may convey what information is demonstrated by the item. Alternative text can be provided for pictures, images, Clip Art, SmartArt, charts, graphs, text boxes, AutoShapes and WordArt.

  1. Select the image/text box and right click inside the image. A menu will appear.
  2. Select “Format Picture/Object/AutoShape/TextBox/WordArt”. A new window will pop up.
  3. Select the “Web” tab at the top right corner of the window.
  4. Type your alternative text in the indicated area.
  5. Click OK.


How to Create Good Alternate Text:

  • Consider the content and function of your image.
  • If it provides content to your document, make sure that the information the image provides is described in the alt text.
  • If your image only provides a function (for example, providing a portrait of a historical figure described in the text) you need only describe the image. In the case that the image is of a historical figure, write his/her name as the alt text.
  • Try not to use “Image of...” or “Graphic of...” as alt text. That is usually evident to the person reading the alt text.
  • Do not repeat the information which is contained in the document itself into the alt text. If it's already in the document, that should be enough.

Wrapping Style of Non-Text Elements

To ensure the accessibility of non-text elements, the “wrapping style” should be set as “In line with text”.

  1. Select the image/text box and right click inside the image. A menu will appear.
  2. Select “Format Picture/Object/AutoShape/TextBox/WordArt”. A new window will pop up.
  3. Select the “Layout” tab.
  4. Select “In line with text”
  5. Click OK.


Use the Microsoft Word tool to create columns. If you create columns using spaces and tabs, it will not be recognized as a column by assistive learning technology.

Inserting Columns in Microsoft Word 1997 – 2003:

  1. Click on “Format” in the toolbar.
  2. In the menu, select “Columns”.
  3. Select the number of columns you want and click OK.


Use the Microsoft Word tool to create tables. If you use the “Draw Table” tool, it will be difficult for your table to be read by assistive learning technology.

Inserting a Table in Microsoft Word 1997 - 2003:

  1. Click on “Table” in the toolbar. A menu will appear.
  2. Select “Insert”, then select “Table”.
  3. Select the number of columns and rows you want and click OK.

Inserting Heading Rows in Microsoft Word 1997 – 2003:

The table should include a Heading Row, which consists of text included at the top of the table which helps interpret the data. If a table is longer than a page, Heading Rows must be repeated at the top of the table on each of the following pages.

To repeat the header row when a table spans more than one page:

  1. Select and right click on the first row of the table. A menu will appear.
  2. Click on “Table Properties” and select the “Row” tab.
  3. Check the option which reads “Repeat as header row at the top of each page”.
  4. Click OK.

To link your document to a website or another document, you may use hyperlinks. When doing so, make sure that the Hyperlink has context and describes where it leads. It should not just read “click here”, and should make it clear what the destination of the link is (example, the web link http://queensu.ca should be be written as "Queen's University Homepage").

Inserting a Hyperlink in Microsoft Word 1997 – 2003:

  1. Highlight the text you wish to be the link.
  2. Click on “Insert” in the toolbar. A menu will appear.li>
  3. Click on the “Hyperlink” in the menu. A new window will pop up.
  4. Where it indicates to put the address, type in the address of the website. Or, if you are creating a Hyperlink to a file, search for the desired file in the browser window. Select it.
  5. Once you’ve either typed in the web address or selected your desired file, click OK.

Graphs and Charts

You must use the chart function in Microsoft Word to insert charts and graphs, in order to preserve the data contained within them.

Inserting a Chart/Graph in Microsoft Word 1997 – 2003:

  1. Click on “Insert” in the toolbar, and select “Object” in the drop-down menu.
  2. Select the “Microsoft Graph Chart” button.
  3. Select the desired chart options, input your chart values and click OK.


Word 2003 screencap for creating graphs/charts Word 2003 screencap of Insert Object Menu