Website Accessibility and Accessible Documents / Images / Videos

Important Resources:

UW Accessibility Technology Web Page

  • This page provides a number of things, including information to the UW plan for web accessibility, links to resource groups, and various tools to assist with this process.
  • This page also provides access to training on how to create a webpages and documents that are accessible for those who have sight challenges and use computer screen reader software to read web pages and web based documents.

Pictures and Images:

When posting a picture or image, fill in the 'Alt Text' box with a basic, good, and short description of the image.  The Alt Text is the text a screen reader uses to describe the image for the person using a reader to view the web site.

This site also gives goo instructions on how to describe scientific and data content:

Documents, PDFs, and Forms:

Key Message:
There is no software that automatically will produce a PDF, Word Document, or Form that is accessible for screen readers.  There are some things you can do relatively easily to make things more likely to be accessible.  This outline below is only an outline.  For more in depth information please go to the UW Accessibility Technology Web Page and its section on Creating Accessible Documents.

First, Ask this question:
Does this document or form absolutely need to be a document of some kind - or can it be built as a regular web page?

If it can be built as a regular web page, instead of a PDF or a Word document, this is by far superior for the screen readers.  It is also much easier than trying to make a document accessible for a screen reader.  Even forms can likely be built as a regular web page.  Contact Liz Collier for more assistance with this:

If it absolutely has to remain a PDF or Document of some kind:

  1. Use Styles When Writing the Document:
    Write the document using "Styles" in Word.  If you are an editor and have been given a Word Document to post, check and see if "Styles" have been applied.  if not, and it's easy to do so, apply Styles to the document.  Styles are the key to making the document convert well into an accessible document on the web for the screen readers.  If you do not understand what this means, feel free to contact Liz Collier for assistance.

  2. Converting the Word document to PDF:
    If ultimately you want to post a PDF, in Word, first save your document as a Word Document to preserve the styles.  Then go to the "File" tab (top menu).  Click on "Save as PDF" in the links on the left.  If you don't have this link, then you will want to get some technical assistance so that you can properly saves the document.  Using this converter preserves both the Styles, and the text in the PDF that is created.
    1. Do not just click on "Save As" and then choose the PDF file type from the drop down at the bottom of the save window.  This will not necessarily result in a PDF where the Styles have been saved.

  3. Use the UW Document Conversion Service to make the document closer to accessible:
    For best results, please read the next section of this page below.
    This service does NOT create a fully accessible document.  But it will get the document closer to being accessible then if you do not use it. Even after putting your document through this service, it will still need some clean up if you are going for perfection.  However, if time and effort are at a premium, taking this step is at least a good will attempt to do the best we can do with the departments limited resources.
    1. If you want to take more time, and get a document that is as perfectly accessible as possible, contact the UW Accessibility Team listed on the UW Accessibility Technology Web Page for assistance.  Liz Collier has also been trained on how to get the document as close as possible to being fully accessible, and is available for short consultations as needed.

Notes Regarding Using the UW Document Conversion Service

The UW now offers an online Document Conversion Service to help students, faculty, and staff at the University of Washington to produce alternative versions of documents quickly and easily. The service is free to anyone with a UW NetID, and can be accessed at

Please note the following limitations of this service:

  • The source file needs to be of good quality in order to maximize conversion accuracy.
  • Some file outputs may require additional editing after conversion.
  • This service is intended to provide a quick temporary solution, but is not the final solution for accessibility. For faculty and staff who are producing documents, please consult the above links for information on how to create accessible documents in various document formats.
  • Students requesting alternate materials as an accommodation, please contact Disability Resources for Students.

Accessible Videos

An accessible video means that it has had captioning added to it so that there is a running written dialogue for the video.  As a department we do not have the resources to assist with this.  Please go to the UW Accessibility Technology Web Page as a starting point for assistance.