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Bb Accessibility Tip: Headings

by Janice Florent

image of a blind female student using her computer

This is the first in a series of blog posts that is a follow-up to my recent Accessibility in Education post where I wrote,

Even though you may not have a student with a disability currently enrolled in your course, there are a few things you can do when creating content that will save you time later when you do have a student with a disability. This is not wasted time as you will find some students without disabilities will take advantage of accessible content as well.

This post will focus on "Headings." A good heading structure is an important accessibility consideration. Headings should be used to indicate main points and sub-points on a page. Like an outline, heading levels should appear in logical and consistent order.

Headings allow screen reader users to easily navigate through the page and can make the page more usable for everyone.

image of a sheet of paper with headings

When creating documents, many people do not use true "heading styles." For example, when creating a heading, they simply change the font type, enlarge the font size, change the color, make it bold, etc. When this is done, the document has no real structure that can be detected by a screen reader program. While visual learners can scan the page for text that stands out from the rest, users who rely on a screen reader are not able to "see" these elements.

The correct way to provide structure for accessibility purposes is to use heading styles. Listed below are instructions on applying heading styles in MS Word, PowerPoint, and the Content Editor.

Add heading styles in MS Word document:

  1. Click on the Home tab.
  2. Highlight the text.
  3. Click on the appropriate heading selector in the styles panel (e.g. Heading 1 for top-level heading).
image of MS Word ribbon showing headings

Add heading styles in PowerPoint:

Using slide layouts will ensure that files have correctly structured headings and lists, and proper reading order.

To assign a Slide Layout:

  1. Click on the Home tab.
  2. Click on New Slide.
  3. Choose the desired layout from the slide options menu.
image of PowerPoint ribbon showing slide layouts

Add heading styles in the Content Editor:

  1. Highlight the text.
  2. Select the proper heading level from the style selector (e.g. Heading for top-level heading; Sub Heading 1 for a subheading of the top-level heading, etc.).
image of Content Editor showing style selector

Note: When creating heading styles always use the proper heading level. Create uniform headings so that a screen reader can navigate the content and can understand how it is structured.

Additionally, you can customize styles.
Learn how to change styles in MS Word 2013
Learn how to change a style set in MS Word 2010
Learn more about PowerPoint 2013 slide layouts
Learn more about PowerPoint 2010 slide layouts

The National Center on Disability and Access to Education developed Accessibility Cheatsheets to assist anyone who is creating accessible content. These free resources are catered to less-technical individuals.

3 thoughts on “Bb Accessibility Tip: Headings

  1. Pingback: CAT FooD » Blog Archive » Bb Accessibility Tip: Lists

  2. Pingback: CAT FooD » Blog Archive » Accessibility is for Everyone

  3. Pingback: CAT FooD » Blog Archive » Make Course Content Accessible

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