Published: 2 October 2022

Accessible Document Specialist

Accessible Document Specialist badge. Opens in new windowWhen I found out that I had passed this exam, I was so excited that I announced it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, sharing my Credly badge as widely as I could. So apart from the sense of achievement, why is it so important to me?

My job focus is really about web accessibility and ensuring that our websites, products and systems conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 and the Public Sector Bodies Requirements. This is really important, in ensuring that staff and citizens are able to access our services without any barriers. However every day, across the entire department, hundreds of thousands of documents are produced, mostly by individuals, and then emailed or shared online. The vast majority of these are less accessible than the worst website.

The thing is with document accessibility, we can all learn to get it right. Web development is a specialist field. It's not for everyone. Documents though... most of us use Word, Excel and PowerPoint at some point in our personal or professional lives. Many of us convert these to PDF. It is quite easy to learn how to make these inclusive and accessible for everyone.

Word documents

I've published a whole section on how to create accessible Word documents. If I was to pick out a couple of things that I believe make the biggest difference though, they would be:

Excel spreadsheets

I'll be honest, I hadn't given Excel a lot of thought until recently. Again though, I have published a section on how to create accessible Excel spreadsheets. The two parts of this that stood out most for me are:

PowerPoint presentations

I'm not the greatest fan of PowerPoint. It gets used for purposes that it was never intended for and this often results in a lack of accessibility. However, it has its place and I have published a section on how to create accessible PowerPoint slides. My two biggest take aways for this are:


PDFs are different. You don't create a PDF in the PDF software. You create it somewhere else and then convert it. This is not a process that generally works well for accessibility. So my top tips for PDFs are:

Because PDFs are so difficult to get right and require expensive software to check and fix, it's usually better to just send out the original document.

The qualification

My qualification is valid for three years. If I want to renew it, I have to keep up with continuous learning and presenting information. I have to log this as credits. Unfortunately, work-related stuff doesn't count. So I will be looking for opportunities to speak at conferences, deliver training and so on. I'm particularly interested in doing this for schools and/or local authorities, as they are often very stretched resource-wise. Let me know if you're interested though.