Following the guidelines in this checklist will allow you to create and remediate documents created in Google Docs so they are accessible.

Required Actions

  • Before distributing the file, consider downloading as a Microsoft Word document and address all warnings and errors in the Microsoft Word Accessibility checker (File → Info → Prepare for Sharing → Check Accessibility). The checker works on both Windows and Mac.
    Rationale: While Google Docs does not have a built-in accessibility checker, the platform shares many of the same authoring principles as MS Word, the accessibility checker addresses a number of accessibility issues. The Accessibility checker is available in Microsoft Office 2010, 2013, and 2016. Note: The document will need to be saved in a .docx format before using the Accessibility Checker. 
  • Structure Structure the document using styles for headings (not just bold, italics and/or a different font size) and other formatting elements (such as color). Styles are located in the Editing view within the main toolbar, in between Zoom and Font. The default is Normal text, but this should be changed to other heading levels based on your content and document structure.
    Rationale: Screen reader users navigate through a document using heading styles. Styles also convey emphasis and semantic meaning, where formatting (i.e., bold or size) does not.
  • Use the column or table feature to create columns. (Tables have their own menu tab, and columns are found under Format → Columns.)
    Rationale: Screen readers read left to right top to bottom. Using the column feature will override this and allow the information to be read top to bottom before being read across. Avoid using tabs and/or spaces to create columns.
  • Use text in addition to the color to convey information (e.g., "Important items are red and marked with an *.")
    Rationale: Color blind students may not discern different colors (“required items are in red”), and need a textual marker (such as an * next to the required item).
  • Ensure your end userend user can download the document as either Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text (.rtf) format.
    Rationale: Microsoft Word and Rich Text files are easily processed by screen readers or other tools used to provide materials in alternate formats. Google Docs requires some different navigation keystrokes, which might slow down a screen reader user.
  • If the permissionsIf the permissions of the document are set to prevent editing, provide an additional copy of the document as an accessible PDF or HTML (web page).
    Rationale: Students with poor visual acuity and those with certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, may need to alter text with poor contrast, small type, or fonts with serifs.
  • Render any mathematical equations or scientific notation used in the document beyond basic operations (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) in an accessible MathML format through the use of an equation editor (e.g., MathType).
    Rationale: Equations are often read by screen readers as graphics and not as actual equations, or the order of the equation is jumbled. MathML can be used to avoid this. Note: The equation editor in Microsoft Word cannot produce accessible MathML.
  • Make sure any videos embedded in the document have closed captions and any audio files embedded in the document have transcripts.
    Rationale: Captions (videos) or transcripts (audio files) are essential components of multimedia access for individuals with hearing loss or auditory processing issues; these features benefit other learners as well, such as people learning English as a foreign language.

Additional usability considerations (suggested but not required)

  • Long documents (more than about 12 pages) should include a Table of Contents (accomplished via Insert→Table of Contents, not manually created), and page numbers which are automatically updated.
    Rationale: A Table of Contents inserted via the Insert tab has internal links which allow screen reader users to jump to the relevant parts quickly.
  • Text descriptions of links to websites should be explicit in describing what the reader will encounter when clicking the link (i.e., "CU Boulder Policies website.")
    Rationale: Screen reader users often navigate documents through searching the list of hyperlinks; therefore, a series of "read more" links is meaningless. Embed links on meaningful text that inform the user of where the link will go (the section Sources and Additional Resources below has good examples of this practice). 

Sources and Additional Resources 

The following resources are available to assist with creating accessible documents, and were used as the basis for the creation of this document: 

To help determine contrast ratios, it is recommended that you use a tool such as: