The accessible syllabus template is a vital resource to provide an accessible starting point for your course syllabi, and DART has worked on many Word files for courses across campus. However, the accessibility of these documents relies on it being considered at every revision. It is not sufficient to build your syllabus from the template and assume that the resulting document is accessible.

This page will detail the most important things to keep in mind when editing an accessible Word document, particularly when working with the accessible syllabus template.

Use the accessibility checker

The accessibility checker will run an automated check on your document and report common accessibility issues. It can be found under Review > Check Accessibility or File > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.

Screenshot of the location of the Check Accessibility tool.

Add Alt Text to Images

If you've added images to your document, they need alternate text to describe their contents to a screen reader user.

Style New Headings

If you add new headings to the document, be sure to style them as such so that they contribute to the document structure. You can see that structure with View > Navigation pane.

A screenshot of the styles pane with the Heading 2 style is selected.

Don't Copy-Paste Tables

The template includes tables that are already structured in an accessible manner. If these are replaced with your own formatting of a course calendar or grading scale, that structure may be lost. If you need extra rows or columns for your content to fit, those can be added to the existing tables.

This rule also applies to tables used for formatting, like for instructor information. This should always be avoided, thus the instructor information section of the template is structured with tab stops to ensure clean reading. Replace the placeholder information with your information rather than copy-pasting from an old syllabus.

Avoid Extra Whitespace

Multiple consecutive whitespace characters like spaces, tabs, and empty paragraphs can get read as "blank" by a screen reader, and should be replaced with other formatting options. Make use of the ruler to change indentation or add tab stops for horizontal formatting, and use the spacing tools in the Layout tab or page breaks for vertical formatting. For more detailed information, see the section on whitespace characters.

Hyperlinks should always be given a descriptive title that describes their destination. If you'll be printing your syllabus, include the raw URLs of any new links you add on the last page without having it as an active link.

Use Strong Style for Emphasis

If you're using bolded, underlined, italicized, or colored text for emphasis, it should be styled as Strong so that it is read as emphasized to a screen reader.