"Fast Five" Essentials to Preparing Materials

Most employees and students can take advantage of these tools in order to create materials for all constituents—employees, alumni, and students—to work and learn with confidence.

Table of Contents: Select the link to be taken directly to that section of the article.

In-program Styles

Using appropriate headings in the appropriate order in your current program is necessary. They add structure and create consistency in documents and allow screen readers to easily—audibly—scan the information. Additionally, authors can easily create such things as a Table of Contents or view an Outline.

Title or subtitle

It is an extremely rare instance that you will use the style "Title" or "Subtitle" found in the Styles Gallery, Pane, or Pulldown. If you have questions, please reach out to accessibility@swarthmore.edu.

Heading 1

You will only ever use Heading 1 or <h1> once in your materials. It will and should usually coincide with "Title" in Microsoft's document properties or <title> in an HTML file. If you have questions, please reach out to accessibility@swarthmore.edu.

Convey Meaning with Words

When providing a link somewhere within your text, be sure to provide context. Screen readers provide users the opportunity to scroll through links, so links such as "click here" and "more" do not make sense to screen readers. You can see examples below:


Sometimes the text needs to stand out. Ask a question as to how one might do that. Color is not read aloud, so consider also calling attention to important text with words. For instance:

  • Important: Paper due on April 15th. All late papers will be deducted one grade per day late.

  • Note: All applicants must sign on line 11 and line 15 in order to have their pay direct deposited.

  • Urgent: Pay attention to all directions before handing in this form.

When using color, always consider the contrast between the background and the text. Use WebAIM's Contrast Checker or Lea Verou's Contrast Ratio Checker to ensure all users who have sight can see the information.

Alt-Text, Captions, Image Descriptions, etc.

When someone is accessing material with a screen reader, they may not see an image. They will not know the content of an image unless there is some sort of descriptive text in the form of alternative text (commonly referred to as "alt-text"), a caption, an image description, or other form of text that their screen reader has access to. Providing this is necessary for all users to understand the meaning of the material and why an image is being included.

A best practice is to include a description somewhere in the text so that everyone can see it. This can be very difficult to do. Below are a few resources we have found to be useful:

"This project reframes alt text as a type of poetry and creates opportunities to practice writing it."

In-program Accessibility Checkers



Install and run Grackle for each program (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc)

Microsoft Office

Review → Check Accessibility


Atto Editor

  1. Expand the editor's menu by clicking the down arrow, which is the first button on the left-hand side and top row of the editor. A screen tip will indicate "Show/hide advanced buttons."

  2. Click on the first item in the sixth section, which looks like a stick figure of a person in a circle.

TinyMCE Editor

Go to Tools → Accessibility Checker in the editor.


Google Slides

Microsoft Office 365 PowerPoint

Please see our article on installing and accessing Microsoft Office 365 if you have questions about the program itself.




Setting a Language

Many programs in most operating systems (OS) follow the overall system settings for language. To view your system's settings:

Adobe Acrobat

  1. Navigate to Fix accessibility issues (Acrobat Pro)

  2. Scroll down to Document Language or use Ctrl+f to find "Document Language."

  3. Follow the instructions to set document-wide language or the language of a part of a document, if it's different from the overall language of the document. 

Microsoft Office

Google Docs


Additional Resources

Ways you can contact ITS or find information:

ITS Support Portal: https://support.swarthmore.edu
Email: support@swarthmore.edu
Phone: x4357 (HELP) or 610-328-8513
Check out our remote resources at https://swatkb.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/remote/overview
Check our homepage at https://swarthmore.edu/its