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Digital accessibility student guide

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


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


ScreenTips are small containers of descriptive text that appear when you hover your cursor over an element – this can include buttons, commands, images, or hyperlinks. ScreenTips can give additional information about elements, which can help users scan content more easily and quickly. 

To add ScreenTips: 

  1. Use the cursor to highlight or select the element to which you want to add the ScreenTip, and then right-select. 
  2. Select Link or Edit Hyperlink. Select the ScreenTip button. 
  3. In the ScreenTip text box, type in your ScreenTip.  
  4. Apply the changes, select OK > OK. 


An important feature of navigable documents are properly formatted references and citations in your text. This helps link information together in a navigable way. This will assist keyboard and screen reader users. 

What to do

  • Insert a formatted inline reference using the Insert Citation tool in the References menu in Office 365 or using a citation manager.
  • Use the Insert Footnote or Insert Endnote to link the main body of text with notes.
  • Right-select on tables and graphics to Insert Caption to add a label to your figures.
  • Use Cross-reference to refer to specific items in your document such as headings, list items, tables and figures.

How to check

  • Insert a Bibliography and/or Insert Table Figures from the References menu to check your citations and figures are all referenced.
  • Manually check your footnotes and cross-referenced material are described and formatted correctly.


Equations must be added in the maths environment available in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, to ensure that mathematical characters and symbols accessible to screen readers.

  • Do add an equation, by selecting the Insert tab and choosing the Equation tool (characterised with the pi symbol) under the Symbols section. The keyboard shortcut is "Alt"+ "=" on a Windows system and control + "=" on a Mac system.
  • Do not use the Insert Symbol characters or super or subscripts fonts which will not be read out accurately by a screen reader.
  • Do not insert images of equations as these will require accurate text descriptions.

equation options in the microsoft maths environment

There are three ways to add an equation:

  1. Choose from the editable Built-in equations.
  2. Insert New Equation.
  3. Convert handwritten equations to editable text using Ink to Math.

The Built-in, Insert new equation and Ink equation options from the Equation button on Word

Equations can be typed in using Unicode or LaTex (Word only) input and displayed in Professional 2-dimensional form or Linear 1-dimensional form.

Please refer to Microsoft’s guidance on writing equations or formulas and linear format equations using UnicodeMath and LaTeX in Word.


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