Google Docs

Sample template and guidelines for creating accessible documents.

Google Docs Template

Use the following sample document as a starting point for creating accessible documents in Google Docs. It is important to note that you must follow the guidelines below to ensure you take accessibility steps with the content you add to the template. Please refer to the following guidelines for more instructions.

Access and copy a basic accessible Google Docs Template

Google Docs Guidelines

Google Docs can be somewhat less intuitive to check for accessibility than Microsoft Word. Use the following tips to create a document that is accessible to readers with a variety of disabilities.

Structure with Headings

Heading levels (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.) serve as a structural and navigational guide for the content of a document, conveying the informational hierarchy and connections among various sections. Don’t create headings by simply changing the font size and don’t skip levels.

Add alternative text for images

Alternate text allows you to add textual descriptions to images so people using assistive technologies such as screen readers can hear an audio description of what is in the image.

  • After inserting an image, select the image and right click to choose Alt Text. In the dialogue box that appears, add, or edit a description.
  • Beneath the description you may also select Advanced Options and Add a title for your image. The title will appear as a tooltip when published to the web. A tooltip is text that appears when a user holds their cursor over an object.
  • See Best Practices: Describe Images Using Text for more details.
  • How to add or edit alt text in Google Docs

Write Descriptions for Links

Hyperlinks to websites or online resources need to include a full description of the destination. For example, using the complete URL address as the hyperlink text (for example would be confusing when read by a screen reader, especially if it is lengthy. Furthermore, a common error is to use phrases like “Click here” as the display texts for hyperlinks, which does not include a description of where the link goes or its function.

Choose Colours and Contrast Carefully

Check for high color contrast and use simple backgrounds. Increasing color contrast makes viewing easier for those with vision impairments. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 recommend a minimum ratio of 4.5:1 for large text and 7:1 for other text and images. For example, avoid light gray text on a white background, or text over top of a multicoloured photographic background.

Check text size and alignment

To enhance the readability of your document, consider font type, size, spacing and alignment. Fonts that are too small or too decorative may not be readable by some users.

  • Use left-aligned text when possible. Justified text is more difficult to read because of the extra space between words.
  • Use “sans serif” fonts with sufficient spacing between letters (e.g. Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Helvetica, Century Gothic).
  • Use fonts 11-14 points in size for body text.
  • Avoid using italics as it can make text harder to read.
  • Avoid or limit the use of capital letters for whole words and headings. Dyslexic readers may find lowercase letters easier to read, and excessive use of capital letters can cause crowding and make the text appear to run together.
  • Only use underline for hyperlink text to help users be certain when text is a link.
  • Increasing line spacing slightly helps avoid crowding the text, making it easier for dyslexic individuals to track lines.
  • How to change paragraphs and font size and alignment in Google Docs

Use numbered and bulleted lists

Lists that are numbered and bulleted are easy to follow and easy to read by screen readers. There are two types of lists: ordered and unordered. If the order of the contents of your list is sequential, it is important to use an ordered list.

Use tables for data, not layout, and use a simple table structure

Make sure your tables read in a logical order and display your information correctly so it can be read aloud by assistive technologies and be navigable by using the tab key on a keyboard.

  • The first row of the table should state what kind of information is contained in each column (rows go across and columns go down). This provides context for the data and assists screen readers in navigating the table.
  • Only use tables to present data, not to change the visual layout of the page.
  • Don’t use screenshots of tables. A screen reader can’t read text in an image.
  • Don’t nest tables within other tables. Doing so will make it confusing to screen reader users and make it difficult to navigate by keyboard.
  • Avoid blank cells and merged or split cells. These approaches will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for screen readers to read the information in the table aloud in a way that makes sense.
  • How to add and edit tables in Google Docs

Converting to PDF

Do not export your accessible Google Docs document as a PDF. At the time of writing, exporting to PDF from Google Docs strips out all the tags, resulting in a PDF that is not accessible. Instead, do one of the following:

  • Export as a Word document and then export it as a PDF from Word.
  • Use the paid version of Grackle Docs to export accessible PDFs directly from Google Docs.
  • Open your PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, choose Tools > Accessibility and select Run Setup Assistant.
  • Note: making accessible PDFs is difficult. If your information can be shared as a web page instead, that is a better option. Web content is inherently more accessible.