To create the rules for the Accessibility Checker, Microsoft has identified some of the common accessibility problems with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and then categorised them according to their severity: issues where content is unreadable (labelled as an error), issues where content is difficult to read (labelled as a warning) and issues that may or may not make content difficulty to read (labelled as a tip).
Some of the issues include:
- All objects have alternate text (error)
- Tables specify column header information (error)
- Hyperlink text is meaningful (warning)
- Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting (warning)
- Headings don’t contain too much information (warning)
- Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video (tip)
- All headings are in the correct order (tip)
Below is a screen shot of a test document created and tested using Microsoft Word 2010 Beta. The document contains a long heading (18 words), an image and a table without alternate text, and a table that does not have column headings. After running Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker, all four accessibility issues were detected. The accessibility report and tips on how and why to fix these issues can be seen in the right-hand pane.
The introduction of an Accessibility Checker is another step in the right direction for Microsoft, which continues to improve access in its products, for example the introduction of the full-screen magnifier in Windows 7. The new Accessibility Checker will make it much easy for people to implement accessibility in the Office suite and may also raise more awareness about accessibility. All the rules that Microsoft have identified and included are good accessibility practice, and many are taken from or are closely aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
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