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Digital accessibility guide

Explore how to create, design and structure your content to ensure that is is accessible to your students.


Using a heading structure is one of the most important steps in making Word documents accessible. Both screenreader users and sighted users (from the Navigation pane) can use headings to navigate lengthy documents. Headings should be used in sequential order (e.g. Heading 1 for chapter titles, Heading 2 for sub-chapters, etc.).

Headings can be added by highlighting the desired text and selecting the heading the Home tab > Styles. With the text selected, the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + 1 for Heading 1, Ctrl + Alt + 2 for Heading 2 and so on, can also be used.

Style sets

Heading styles are determined by the style set. You can easily apply a different design to your document:

  • From the Design tab select Themes
  • Select the style you want
  • You can also change the Colours and Fonts set too

Table of Contents

With a heading structure is in place, a Table of Contents can be added which will provide a good way to navigate long documents.

  • A Table of Contents can be added from the References tab.
  • Place the cursor on the point of insertion and select the table style.
  • Right-clicking on the table of contents and selecting Update Table of Contents will reflect any succeeding changes to the document.

Page numbers and page count will complement a Table of Contents and help users find where they are in the document, particularly in long documents.

  • A Page Number can be added from the Insert tab.
  • Consider using Page X of Y to include the page count.


Bulleted and numbered lists have a structure that screen readers users can navigate using keyboard shortcuts. Lists can be created from the Paragraph section in the Home tab. Select a Bullets or Numbering list to insert. To apply a Multilevel list, press the Tab key to indent any sub-points or use the Decrease/Increase indent to promote or demote the hierarchy of text.

Microsoft Word bullets, numbered and multilevel lists, decrease and increase indent buttons

Related guidance

Accessible documents guidance on general principles, images, colour, links and tables.


Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities [online], 2021. [online]. Microsoft Support. Available from: [Accessed 24 Sep 2021].

Microsoft Word Tips [online], 2019. [online]. Accessibility at Penn State. Available from: [Accessed 24 Sep 2021].

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