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Jan Richards1, Sabrina Ruplall1, Jeroen Baldewijns21 Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University2 Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde - AnySurfer
Introduction Web accessibility is a frequently discussed topic. But what about the accessibility of office documents (word processed documents, spreadsheets, presentations)? Such as those created by: Microsoft Office LibreOffice Google Docs Etc.
Introduction (con’t) Office documents remain a critical means of communication in domains as diverse as commerce, education, civic engagement and public governance. And rather than fading away, office documents have taken to “The Cloud” with systems such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365.
Relevant Legislation Accessibility regulations typically already apply, e.g.. US Section 508 UK’s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) But what is an “accessible office document”? An independent resource is needed, such as the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for web content.
Web Pages vs. Office Documents WCAG 2.0 could be used, but it is “overkill” when applied to most office documents, which are usually less dynamic and interactive than web content. “Typical” office documents are: intended to be used by people (not computer code), text-based (with images but usually not video, etc.), fully printable, self-contained (no external links), typical of office-style workflows.
Accessible Office Document Guidance So in 2010, the IDRC, as part of an EnAbling Change partnership with the Government of Ontario and UNESCO, created the Accessible Digital Office Documents (ADOD) project which included both an Assessment Framework and Authoring Techniques. http://inclusivedesign.ca/accessible-office-documents
ADOD Assessment Framework The assessment framework was essentially an adaptation of WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 1.0 to office documents and applications. The adaptation involved: Adjusting terminology away from terms such as “Web Content” and “User Agent” that would not be familiar to users of office applications. Removing success criteria not applicable to the typical office document use case (as previously described) Removing Level AAA success criteria.
ADOD Assessment Framework (con’t) In order to reduce the risk of being seen to be “fragmenting” the guidance provided by W3C-WAI, ADOD uses the W3C-WAI numbering schemes and the original W3C-WAI wording except where vocabulary adjustments are identified with square brackets. Also, ADOD does not include a conformance model. Developers seeking to make a conformance claim should only do so to the W3C Recommendations.
ADOD Authoring Techniques Of greater practical use to most people than the framework are the authoring techniques, covering: Suite Word Processor Spreadsheet Presentation Microsoft Office 2003 Word 2010 Excel 2003 PowerPoint 2003 Microsoft Office 2007 Word 2010 Excel 2007 PowerPoint 2007 Microsoft Office 2008 for Word 2008 for Mac Excel 2008 for Mac PowerPoint 2008 for Mac Mac Microsoft Office 2010 Word 2010 Excel 2010 PowerPoint 2010 OpenOffice.org v3.2 Writer Calc Impress Corel WordPerfect Office X5 WordPerfect X5 Quattro Pro X5 Presentations X5 Apple iWork ‘09 Pages Numbers Keynote Google Docs Document Spreadsheet Presentation Adobe Acrobat 9 Acrobat
ADOD Authoring Techniques (con’t) Product-by-product, providing very specific information (an approach that would be useful for web content authoring tools as well) Step-by-step instructions Numerous screenshots “Desktop reference”-style
But Note… Not all applications support creation of accessible content Some lack features that enable accessible authoring E.g. MS Office 2008 for Mac Does not support alternative text Some of the other features that might otherwise support accessibility, such as extensive templates, are not as effective E.g. OpenOffice (v3.2) for Windows Includes bugs in which alternative text is lost
The General TechniquesTechnique 1. Use Accessible TemplatesTechnique 2. Specify Document LanguageTechnique 3. Provide Text AlternativesTechnique 4. Avoid “Floating” Elements/Set Logical Tab OrderTechnique 5. Use HeadingsTechnique 6. Use Named StylesTechnique 7. Use Built-In Document Structuring FeaturesTechnique 8. Create Accessible ChartsTechnique 9. Make Content Easier to SeeTechnique 10. Make Content Easier to UnderstandTechnique 11. Check AccessibilityTechnique 12. Use Accessibility Features when Saving/Exporting
Technique 1 Use Accessible Templates Starting point for documents, accessibility is critical Create an accessible template Select an accessible template (empty templates tend to be accessible)
Technique 2 Specify Document Language Indicate natural language Indicate if a different language is used for select text Enables assistive technologies to accurately present content Automatic language detection
Technique 3 Provide Text Alternatives for Images and Graphical Objects Ensure information is conveyed to people who cannot see the object More complex objects require longer description (e.g. artwork, flowcharts)
Should I Avoid Using Graphics? Accessible documents should not be equated with text- only documents. In fact some people with disabilities will find it easier to understand graphics than dense text.
Technique 4 Word processors/spreadsheets: avoid “Floating” Elements Ensure objects remain with text that references it Presentation/PDF software: set a reading tab order
Technique 5 Use Headings Documents require structuring to make them more straightforward for readers to understand “True Headings” create logical divisions
Technique 6 Use Named Styles Similar to “True Headings” Helps to understand why something was formatted in a given way
Technique 7 Use Built-In Document Structuring Features Tables Lists Columns Page Breaks Table of Contents Page Numbering Document Title
Technique 8 Create Accessible Charts Same basic accessibility considerations as rest of document Ensure contents are clear and labeled Consider providing the data in tabular form as well
Technique 9 Use font sizes between 12 and 18 points for body text. Use fonts of normal weight, rather than bold or light weight fonts. If you do choose to use bold fonts for emphasis, use them sparingly. Use standard fonts with clear spacing and easily recognized upper and lower case characters. Sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Verdana) may sometimes be easier to read than serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond). Avoid large amounts of text set all in caps, italic or underlined. Use normal or expanded character spacing, rather than condensed spacing. Avoid animated or scrolling text.
Technique 9 (con’t) Use Sufficient Contrast Avoid Using Color Alone Avoid Relying on Sensory Characteristics Avoid Using Images of Text
Technique 10 Write Clearly Whenever possible, write clearly with short sentences. Introduce acronyms and spell out abbreviations. Avoid making the document too “busy” by using lots of whitespace and by avoiding too many different colors, fonts and images. If content is repeated on multiple pages within a document or within a set of documents (e.g., headings, footings, etc.), it should occur consistently each time it is repeated.
Technique 11 Check Accessibility Similar to spelling and grammar checking Identifies potential accessibility errors Describes how to address those errors Evaluate HTML accessibility Evaluate PDF accessibility
Technique 12 Use Accessibility Features when Saving/Exporting to Other Formats Saving as PDF Saving as HTML
Partnerships and Next Steps The ADOD material underwent an initial public review in October 2010 (with 11 external reviewers sending comments). As new office software is released (e.g. the new accessibility checker for LibreOffice) we would like to keep the techniques updated. For that we need partners. AnySurfer was the first additional organization to contribute translations (Dutch) and techniques.
Conclusion Office documents can be made accessible and by their nature, this is often simpler than for Web content. Office document authoring techniques are available at: http://inclusivedesign.ca/accessible-office-documents Partnerships are being sought to translate and maintain the documents.
Acknowledgements ADOD was developed in partnership between: Government of Ontario Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at OCAD University UNESCO Inclusive Design Research Centre (OCAD University)