Upload and link to easily accessible documents to be printed (e.g., flyers) or filled out (e.g., Excel files, forms).

HTML is Preferred for Information on the Web

Other document types should be turned into web pages on the CNM website. Here's why:

  • Visitors might not have the proper software (e.g., Microsoft Office) to open the files.
  • It can be hard, or impossible, to open files from mobile devices.
  • Findability suffers (for users, and with the site search).
  • Managing documents is another variable to manage for you and your site administrators.
  • It’s harder to reuse content in files.


We encourage you to create content in the form of text for the website in order to reduce content duplication. In some cases, we may need to upload PDF and Word documents.

Documents should follow appropriate color contrast selections, writing style, graphic standards, and image guidelines.

10 Guidelines for Formatting Your Content

If a piece of information might be inaccessible with someone, convey the information in an additional or alternative way. And before you upload a document, make sure the content meets the following criteria:

  1. Make sure content is organized logically, with the most important information at the top. Organize content into meaningful chunks.
  2. Use numbered and bulleted lists with formatting options available in whatever content-creation software you are using.
  3. Use built-in headings instead of creating your own. Built-in headings, found in your Home tab ribbon, are generally screen readable.
  4. Use Heading 1 for the document title, Heading 2 for major document headings, and Heading 3 for sub-headings under pre-existing Heading 2 content. Keep the paragraph text "Normal" style.
  5. When possible, avoid headers, footers, and text boxes. Screen readers have trouble placing this information in context.
  6. Avoid colored text.
  7. Make sure the text strongly contrasts with the background color.
  8. Make sure all images have alternative text descriptions.
  9. Accessible tables are simple, have an identified header row, and include a table summary, either as a caption or as alternative text. Do not use merged or blank cells. Use tables only for data tables and not for formatting content. More information on laying out accessible tables.
  10. Make sure hyperlinks are not broken and use descriptive text for link labels. Do not use "click here."

Best Practices and Resources

General Resources

Microsoft Word

  • Add alternative text to images, graphics, shapes, charts, and tables.
  • Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips to URLs.
  • Use headings, styles, bulleted lists, and ordered lists.
  • Use table headers for tables.

The work that you do to make documents accessible in Word can be saved as Adobe PDF. There might be some extra work in Adobe Acrobat Pro to make sure PDFs are accessible.

For more information, check out Microsoft's Make your Word Documents Accessible or Web Aim's Accessible Word Documents resource pages.

Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT)

  • Add alternative text to images, graphics, shapes, charts, and tables.
  • Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips to URLs.
  • Use built-in slide layouts and accessible slide designs.
  • Use headings, styles, bulleted lists, and ordered lists.
  • Use table headers for tables.

For more information, check out Microsoft's Make your PowerPoint Presentations Accessible to People with Disabilities page or the American Foundation for the Blind's Guidelines for Giving an Accessible and Interesting PowerPoint Presentation​.

Microsoft Excel

  • Add alternative text to images, graphics, shapes, PivotCharts, and tables.
  • Add hypertext text and ScreenTips to URLs.
  • Rename sheet tabs and delete empty sheet tabs.
  • Add headers to new tables.

For more information, check out Microsoft's Guide to Make Excel Spreadsheets Accessible.

Adobe PDF

  • Follow the accessibility tips for Microsoft Word before exporting the document as PDF.
  • Consider moving content away from PDF into a web format, especially if the majority of the content is text.

If you don’t have Acrobat Pro to test accessibility, make sure you follow the steps to make Word Documents accessible, and contact Web Strategy to help make sure your PDF is accessible.

For more information on how to make your PDF accessible, check out Adobe's Workflow for Creating Accessible PDFsAdobe's Creating Accessible Adobe PDF FilesAdobe's Guide to Creating Accessible PDF Documents in Adobe Acrobat Professional, or Web Aim's PDF Accessibility page.

If your PDF comes from a different source, contact the creators to request an accessible version and refer them to create and verify PDF accessibility. This may require access to the original file and software used to create the PDF in order to make accessibility improvements to then create a new accessible PDF. If you can’t find the original file, consider moving the content away from PDF into a web page, web form, or recreate the PDF using best practices for creating accessible documents.

Other Documents

Files created using proprietary software other than Microsoft or Adobe may require speaking with the vendor to adjust the software to make sure it's accessible.