What is 508 compliance?
All federal agencies in the US are required to make their electronic and information technology accessible to disabled people. See section508.gov for more details.

Microsoft 365 Files

Microsoft 365 offers features for creating accessible files (see Actions list) including: 

  • Built-in Accessibility Checker
  • Templates
  • Ability to create accessible PDFs

Word Documents

The requirements for an accessible Word document outlined below are detailed in full with examples in the video series Make an Accessible Document in Microsoft Word by Section508.gov (see Actions list). Many of these features are included in Word's Accessibility Checker. To use it in an open document, on the Review tab click Check Accessibility. This is available in both the web and app versions of Word.

  1. File Name/Type: A descriptive file name that identifies the document or its purpose helps everyone locate, open, and switch between documents. Saving documents as .docx format  preserves accessibility features.
  2. Styles & Headings: Adding headings and formatting to a document enables assistive technology to infer meaning from the document structure and formatted characters using built-in styles.
  3. Lists: Built-in lists organize and structure content so assistive technology can identify that information is contained in a group, and convey the relationship between each item within the list.
  4. Columns: The built-in columns tool ensures that content is read in the proper order.
  5. Tables: Use built-in features to create tables so assistive technology can read the information in a meaningful manner.
  6. Languages: Use the proofing language settings to programmatically set the document language and enable assistive technology to read and correctly pronounce content.
  7. Links: Give each link a unique and descriptive name to allow assistive technology users to determine the destination, function or purpose of a link.
  8. Headers, Footers and Watermarks: Duplicate vital information in these items so it can be accessed by assistive technology.
  9. Images/Objects: Assistive technology cannot infer meaning from images and other objects, such as pictures, images of text, images of tables, shapes, and icons with hyperlinks. Apply "alt text” to objects to ensure equivalent access to the visual information.
  10. Text Boxes: Assistive technology cannot access information in text boxes unless they are placed “in line with text.” 
  11. Color & Sensory Characteristics: Color and other visual or sensory characteristics, such as size, shape, and location are used to convey meaning.
  12. Contrast: Ensure there is enough color contrast between the foreground and background. WCAG offers a color contrast checker (see Actions).
  13. Embedded Files:  Embed audio-only, video-only or multimedia files into your document so individuals with disabilities have comparable access to the information.
Using a Microsoft Word template includes many features to create an accessible document!