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HomeTrainingAccessibility Tips and LinksSummary of Accessibility Tips

Making Your Work More Accessible

General Tips
Microsoft Word
Outlook and Outlook Express
Notebook and Plain Text

General Tips

In general, for text in electronic or print documents, 14 point size is considered the minimum acceptable size for large print. If your documents permit, 16 point text is recommended.

A non-serif font, such as Arial, is recommended because when magnified, the serifs in fonts do not smooth very well and text looks very blocky.

Try not to use background images or watermarks in emails as these can clutter the screen and make it hard for those using magnification products to discern the text from the background.

When typing acronyms, use all caps such as USPS instead of usps so that JAWS will do a better job of reading them properly.

When you type email addresses or other words that are joined together without spaces between them capitalize the first letter of each word. JAWS reads text with mixed case as if it were separate words.

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Microsoft Word

To adjust your default font and point size in Word:

  • Go to the Format menu (ALT+O).
  • Press ENTER on Font.
  • Press UP or DOWN ARROW to move through the font list to find Arial or another non-serif font.
  • Press TAB twice to the size edit combo box and choose 14 or 16 point.
  • Press ALT+D to activate the "default" button.
  • You will get a dialog box asking if you want to change the default font, answer YES.
  • TAB to the OK button and press SPACEBAR to close the font dialog box.

Make effective use of headings and other native Word formatting within Word documents. A JAWS user can switch a document to outline view and very easily get an overview of a document if headings are used well. This also makes it easier to move from one section to another quickly in a document.

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Outlook and Outlook Express

For JAWS users, being able to look at attachments to an email depends on how the originator sets up their email. The worst possible way to use Outlook with attachments is to have your email set up to create Rich Text email messages. Change your preferences to either plain text or HTML messages. Here’s how in Outlook:

  • Go to the tools menu (ALT+T)
  • Choose Options (O)
  • Press CTRL+TAB to move to the “Mail Format” page.
  • Press ALT+O if necessary to move to the “compose in this message format” combo box. In this combo box, choose either Plain Text or HTML.

Another optional change you might wish to make is to get rid of the prefix “greater than” sign (>) that precedes the text of the replied to message. This makes for less irritating reading for JAWS users.

  • Go to the Tools menu (ALT+T).
  • On the Preferences page, choose the Email Options button (ALT+M).
  • Choose ALT+R to move to the “When replying to a message” combo box and choose “include and indent original message text.” If necessary, move to the “Prefix each line with” edit field and remove the “greater than” sign.

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  • Do not use blank cells for formatting purposes. It’s better to densely pack the data in the workbook and then use Excel’s native formatting techniques. Avoid the use of white space with lots of blank cells or blank rows and columns.
  • Use row and column headers extensively and avoid ambiguity within these headers. Make them clear and self-explanatory.
  • Use descriptive text to explain what is in the spreadsheet or workbook. This can be embedded into the worksheet and you can create a region called “information” or “instructions” that people can move to easily and read. Telling someone that there are two or three regions in the worksheet and the region names will make it easier for a person to navigate to them. Describing what the row headers and column headers for a particular region represent will go a long way towards making the worksheet easier to use.
  • Name regions and use the Go-To command CTRL+G (or F5) to make it easier to move from place to place within spreadsheets. (Highlight the block of cells, press ALT+I to open the Insert menu, N for Name, and D for Define.)
  • Use monitor cells and JAWS JSI files to make work easier.

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Notepad or Plain Text

Put instructions near the top of the document. If the document is large, use a pair of asterisks (**) to mark the different sections of the document. Users can press CTRL+F to open the find dialog box and use F3 after that to find the different sections by searching for the pairs of asterisks throughout the document.

In case the document were to be converted to Braille by the reader you can force the Braille embosser to insert a blank line between sections of the Braille document by including two (2) blank lines in the text document at key places.

Put a table of contents near the top of the document when possible.

Use periods or semicolons frequently to punctuate the document with pauses, so that JAWS does not run text together when it is being read. Having pauses between phrases can make it easier for people to understand the content of the document.

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