Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents

Although there are many aspects to consider when evaluating a document for accessibility, these are the Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents when creating a new document or when evaluating the accessibility of an existing document.

1. Font

 Font Type 

  • Sans serif fonts are preferred for smaller font sizes or large bodies of text
  • Reserve serif fonts (like Times New Roman or Georgia) for headings and titles
  • Limit the use of script and decorative fonts

Font Sizing 

Although there is no definite rule about font size, there are some basic guidelines to help ensure that your font will be easily readable:

  • Minimum of 12 point font for documents
  • Minimum of 20 point font for presentations 
    • Consider using a slightly larger font for presentations given in person if the room size or screen size are not ideal

2. Semantic Structure (Headings)

Use the semantic heading structure available in the “ribbon” of your word processing application to indicate the hierarchy of headings throughout the document. This should seem similar to an outline.

The basic Idea:

The title should be a level 1 heading. There is only one level 1 header in the entire file. Level 2 headings will be for any sectioning within the document. Meanwhile, level 3, 4, 5, and 6 headings will be used to further breakdown each topic, idea, chapter, etc. into smaller sections.

For example:

On this page the heading levels (shown as <h1> for level 1, <h2> for level 2, and so on…) are:

  • <h1> Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents
    • <h2> Font
    • <h2> Semantic Structure
      • <h3> The Basic Idea
      • <h3> For Example
    • <h2> Lists
    • <h2> Color Considerations
    • <h2> Descriptive Links
    • <h2> Alternative Text
    • <h2> Captions

3. Lists

When making a list, use the tools provided to create bullets, numbering, or outlining. These tools create the semantic structure for unordered or ordered lists. Avoid using dashes, asterisks, tabbing, or self-numbering.

4. Color Considerations

  • Avoid using color as the only means of representation or emphasis.
    • To avoid this, if text is colored red to draw attention, also italicize or bold the text. 
    • If the color blue is used to indicate which items are most important, you could also indicate that they are important with an asterisk.
    • You do not have to avoid using color, just consider “color plus one” other visual difference.
  • Be sure that there is enough contrast between the text and the background by using a color contrast tool.
  • Although black text on a white background is recommended, white text on a black background should either be used sparingly or softened by using a dark gray background instead of pure black. The stark contrast of white on black can be jarring, cause blurring, or even set off a migraine headache for some users.
  • Avoid visually busy backgrounds in presentations so as not to distract from the text. 
  • Limit the number of colors used per document or per slide. 

Recommended Tools


TPGi Color Contrast Checker and Colorblindness Simulator

This is an application that is downloaded to your computer. It can be used with Microsoft, Google, and Apple products. We highly recommend this resource especially for remediate digital documents and presentations.



This helps with choosing an accessible color palette. It’s fun to use! 


WebAIM Contrast Checker

WebAIM’s Contrast Checker is easy to use if you are familiar with HEX codes or working on a webpage.

4. Descriptive Links

Avoid pasting in a long, random URL by creating hyperlinks with custom text. This improves usability, accessibility, appearance, and increases the likelihood that a user will interact with your link.

When writing custom text for your hyperlink, you should also avoid phrases that are not descriptive like “read more” or “click here.” The best hyperlink text concisely conveys the link destination and makes sense when read out of context.

For documents that you intend to post digital and also print, a combination of clickable hyperlink with an unclickable URL may be the best option:

Blackboard Help for Links with Missing Discernible Text (

5. Alternative Text

Non-decorative images within digital documents require alternative text, frequently referred to as “alt text.” Alt text can be add in most applications by right-clicking (or command-clicking) and selecting “Edit alt text” from the drop down menu. Good alt text is a brief description of the content and the function of the image. Images that are only added for decorative purposes and do not add context to the document should be marked as “decorative.”

6. Captions

When a video or audio element is embedded in or linked to from a digital document captions or a transcript of the audio is required.

7. Tables

In order to a table to have basic accessibility it needs to be simply designed and have column headers.