Structure Pages with Headings and Lists
For help, contact: Karen Sorensen
Why this is Important
It is easier for everyone to find the content they are looking for on a document or web page, if it is structured using headings and lists. And it's important to create headings and lists properly, so they will be interpreted correctly by assistive technology.
People with limited or no vision depend on screen reading software that reads the text on the screen aloud. (Video of screen reading software.) If you just bold normal text to create the look of a heading, it will be read as paragraph text by a screen reader. Conversely, If you use a heading style to make text big and bold but it isn't really a heading, the screen reader will read it as a heading and not properly communicate the emphasis you intended.
How to Achieve this Accessibility Guideline
Page structure is essentially the same in a web page or a word document. Page structure is the building blocks of the page content: Headers, paragraphs, lists. Below is an explanation of how to technically create headings and lists, but it's also important that you know how to properly use headings for content structure.
HTML web pages are the most accessible type of online document. They should be used over other types of documents whenever possible.
In Desire2Learn, create headings and lists for your web pages using the advanced tab of the WYSIWYG editor.
If you are developing and uploading your own web pages to D2L, make sure you use symantically correct HTML tags and separate content from presentation using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
Use the text formatting styles provided in MS Word (or other document creating software packages,) to create headings and lists. You can change the color and the size of the heading after it is created. You aren't stuck with the defaults. If you want to change the look of the formatting styles provided, follow these instructions.
An added benefit of using headings in MS Word is that you can then easily create a table of contents for your document! Here's a How-to video for using headings and styles in Microsoft Word.
Run the built-in accessibility checker!
Unless you know that everyone who will be accessing this document has Microsoft Word on their computer, convert (Save-as) the document to a PDF before posting it on the web (see information below on creating an accessible PDF).
To create an accessible PDF,
- start with a well structured word document or presentation.
- In Microsoft Office 2010 programs, choose "Save as" from the File tab, select PDF as the file type.
- Before you click Publish, click Options and make sure that "Document structure tags for accessibility" and "Create bookmarks using Headings" checkboxes are checked and then click OK.
- Then click Publish. This will tag all of the text formatting so page headers and lists are correctly interpreted by a screen reader.
For earlier versions of Microsoft Office, you will need an additional plug-in to do this. See complete instructions for converting to PDF for different versions of Microsoft Office for Windows.
Please Note: Unfortunately this same capability (to convert to an accessible PDF) is not built into MS Word for Mac 2011. Read about options for creating accessible PDF documents with a Macintosh.
A note about scanning: If you create a PDF by scanning a document, make sure to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software (available in some scanners and in Adobe Acrobat X Professional software.).Test your PDFs accessibility by trying to copy text from it. If you can, your PDF is basically accessible. If when you try to select text, the whole document selects, the PDF is not accessible and was probably scanned as an image without any OCR software. See more at Scanning and OCR in the Faculty Lab.
The structure of a presentation is determined mostly by the slide layout and each slide having a unique title. Use the built-in layouts (other than the blank one) for your slides. And ensure each slide has a unique title by viewing your presentation in outline view.
And unless you know that everyone who will be accessing this document has PowerPoint software (or whatever software that you created your presentation with) on their computer, convert your PowerPoint into (Save-As) a PDF before posting it on your website. (See PDF section above for directions on correctly converting your presentation into a PDF in a way that maintains the structure and therefore the accessibility of the document.)