Create an Accessible Syllabus in Word


Use Heading Styles in the Home tab instead of a paragraph in a different font.

heading styles in the Microsoft Word ribbon

If you are using a small screen like a laptop, then Heading Styles is under Styles icon in the ribbon.

modifying a heading style on a smaller screen

To change how a heading looks, it is better to customize the heading style by right-clicking the heading and choosing to Modify it. That way, all of the headings at the same level will be consistently styled.

right click to modify a heading style


Use Lists in the Home tab instead of tabbing and using a bullet.

numbered and bulleted list options in the Paragraph section of the Home tab

  • Use a bulleted list for an unordered list.
  1. Use a numbered list for an ordered sequence.


Use Table in the Insert tab instead of tabbing to create a table.

table options on the Insert tab

Click on the table to access the Table Layout tab and use the Insert options to add rows and columns.

insert rows and columns by using the Insert menu on the Tables tab

Click on the table to access the Table Layout tab and use the Delete option to delete rows and columns.

delete rows and columns on the Table Layout tab

Do not use tables for formatting text in columns unless the data is tabular in structure (i.e., each cell can be mapped to a column header and a label in the first cell of the row). Be sure to mark that the table has a header row and first column on the Table Design tab. Screenreaders use this information to read the contents of the table in an order that makes sense.

mark that the table has a header row and first column


Add alternative text to images to convey their meaning to people who can't see them.

  1. Click on an image.
  2. Select the Picture Format tab.
  3. Click the Alt Text button.
  4. Enter the image description in the box.

add alt text to images

You can also add alt text by right clicking on the image and select Edit Alt Text from the menu.


Use Columns in the Layout tab to create columns instead of using tab or a table.

column options within the Layout tab

Accessibility Statement

The NIU accessibility statement is required for all NIU syllabi.

Check Accessibility

The Check Accessibility feature found on the Review tab automatically analyzes your file for accessibility issues and explains how to fix them.

run accessibility check from the Review tab

Don’t see Check Accessibility?

  1. Click File.
  2. Choose Info.
  3. Select Check for Issues.
  4. Select Check Accessibility.
  5. Accessibility Checker task pane displays next to your content.

Read Aloud, next to the Check Accessibility, reads your document out loud like a screen reader.

PDF Conversion

Do not convert a document to PDF until you have considered:

  • HTML is the most accessible format.
  • Word is the next most accessible format.
  • PDF prints well, but will this document be printed?
  • The digital version of your word document is secure. If someone presents a different version, it has been tampered with. Your digital version is the correct version.

To make a PDF accessible, you need Adobe Acrobat.

  1. In Tools, choose Accessibility
  2. Click Full Check, then Enter
  3. Accessibility issues display in the left pane
  4. Recommended: Click Autotag Document to ensure a screen reader reads the document in logical order

A PDF of a scanned document is inaccessible because a scan is an image.

Learn more about technology accessibility

Additional Syllabus Development Resources

Download Guide to Create an Accessible Syllabus in Word (PDF)

Watch Designing an Accessible Syllabus Workshop Recording

Teaching Support

CITL staff are available to answer your teaching questions. Give us a call at 815-753-0595 or email for assistance. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our staff.

View CITL upcoming events to view available upcoming workshops offered or to register.

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595

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