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Automatic accessibility checking

It is possible to check some desktop documents for accessibility by using automatic checkers.

Firstly, we look at how this can be done for word processing documents, spreadsheets and slides and then we look at how you can create an accessible document in PDF format.

Accessibility checker tools for word processing documents, spreadsheets and slides

Microsoft have included an Accessibility Checker tool in MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This in-built accessibility checker will scan through the document and report accessibility violations.

The Accessibility Checker tool may have to be added to the ribbon which can be done through the customise ribbon option. Add the Accessibility Checker from All commands. Please note: if you are not able to customise the ribbon in Office 365, this may be because you do not have administrative access.

Some versions of word processors may not have an Accessibility Checker. You need to find out from the help menus or through a web search, if a checker is available as these support options change over time.

Accessibility tools for documents in PDF format

If you have made what you think is an accessible document it is possible to convert it to PDF format and use a PDF Accessibility Checker.

When you either ‘export’ the document to PDF or ‘save as … PDF’, it is important that you select the “export Tags” option if it is available to you.

Adobe provides an Accessibility checker with their Acrobat Pro DC version.

A freeware PDF Accessibility Checker is available at PDF Accessibility Checker PAC This also works with NVDA Screen reader.


Automatic checkers are useful for quick accessibility checks but there are many things they cannot do. They will not tell you if the language is clear and simple, if links going to web pages or other parts of a document make sense or if alternative text for images is useful.

A manual document check is likely to provide a more comprehensive accessibility check.


© This work is a derivative of a work created by Dublin Institute of Technology and Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton