Creating accessible Google Docs

A colleague works at a computer creating documents

Google Docs has built in tools that help people with different abilities to read and author documents. Following the recommendations below will make your documents more accessible for everyone.

Styles & Heading

Use the Headings menu in Google Docs to create a well-structured document. Headings make text stand out, and help people to scan your document. The default headings can be customised to meet your own personal preferences.

Google Docs' headings menu offering options of normal text, title, subtitle and heading 1

Advantages of styles and headings:

  • Consistent layout
  • Screen readers can navigate through your document using headings
  • Enables skim reading of longer documents
  • Tables of content can be created automatically
Font, Size & Colour

It’s best to avoid serif fonts (such as Times New Roman). Sans serif fonts, such as Arial, are usually clearer to read.

Avoid italics, CAPITALS or underlining to create emphasis, these can be inaccessible for people with a print disability. Bold text is preferred as a method of emphasising text.

RNIB recommends that a minimum type size of 12 point is used, (although 14 is recommended). Text should be aligned to the left, this assists readers with a restricted visual field locate the beginning the line.

Ensure there is a well-defined contrast between text and background. Black on white offers the strongest contrast, but the Accessibility Checker will flag up any colour contrast issues in your document. The WebAIM Colour Contrast Checker can help you to test different colour combinations,

Some people may prefer different colour combinations or backgrounds, assistive technology can help learners adapt documents in this way.

Images

ALT text should be added to images to help visually impaired learners make sense of the image. If an image, table or media has ALT text, a screen reader will read out this text to briefly describe the content. In Google Docs, Right click on the image, and choose ‘Alt Text’. Enter the text in the Image Description field, adding a title is optional.

Alt text must always describe the image in the context of the document. Access more guidance on creating Alt text for different image types.

Links

Links in Google Docs should use meaningful language. Avoid using phrases like ‘link’ or ‘click’. Create a descriptive link by selecting the text you wish to turn into a hyperlink, and choose Insert > Link. Paste the URL into the Link field. View more information about creating and editing hyperlinks. Descriptive links are easier to understand for learners using assistive technology, such as screen readers.

Voice Typing, Screen Readers & Screen Magnifiers

Google Docs are designed to work with screen readers, braille devices, screen magnification and more. To enable support, visit the Tools > Accessibility Settings menu.

You can also dictate content into Google Docs using the Voice Typing feature. Click Tools > Voice typing to get started. Voice typing is only available when using the Google Chrome browser.

Saving & Sharing

Google Docs are primarily designed to be viewed online, and can be shared to others using the Share menu. If you need to distribute the document for offline access, we recommend downloading the document as a Microsoft Word .docx file. Click File > Download > Microsoft Word (.docx).

Word Documents are inherently more accessible than a PDF, and PDF’s exported from Google Docs do not contain accessibility elements such as ALT tags, nor do they maintain the Heading structure.

GrackleDocs is a third party extension for Google Docs that does export accessible PDF’s and can be trialled free of charge for 30 days.

Third Party Accessibility Checker

Following the above principles will help you to create an accessible Google Doc. Unlike Microsoft Word, Google does not have a built in accessibility checker to review your document. However, GrackleDocs is a third party extension for Google Docs that will check documents for accessibility, and can be trialled free of charge for 30 days.

GrackleDocs should not be used to process personal, or sensitive information.