Skip to central content
Pastel, a guide dog for the blind, with post it note showing how to videos, manual tests, automated tests, and example files Pastel, a guide dog for the blind, with post it note showing manual tests, automated tests, and example files


508 Accessibility Overview

Why do Word documents need to be Section 508 compliant?

If electronic documents are not formatted correctly for 508 compliance, people who are blind or have low vision will have difficulty reading and understanding them. In some cases, they may not be able to access any of the information in an electronic document. In addition, non-compliance with the law could result in formal legal complaints and lawsuits against the agency.

When do Word documents need to be Section 508 compliant?

According to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), all agency information technology, including electronic documents, are required to be Section 508 compliant.

To support compliance with federal disability and anti-discrimination laws, SSA maintains publishing policies and guidelines for electronic "official agency communications". For more information, see the SSA Internet Accessibility Policy and the SSA Accessibility Resource Center Guidelines for Official Agency Communications.

SSA employees are strongly encouraged to make all "official agency communications" Section 508 compliant.

Although the Section 508 standard does not currently provide a formal definition, communications generally should be made accessible when:

  • In final form.
  • Distributed to a broad audience (group or component wide) or outside of a Federal agency.
  • Federal employees are required to understand how to perform their job duties.

What is the Word 508 Accessibility Toolbar, and how can it help me make 508 compliant Word documents?

The SSA Accessibility Resource Center is pleased to announce a new customized 508 Accessibility Support toolbar that will make it easier for you to comply with the law. If you are a Windows 7 user, the toolbar is now part of your standard Microsoft Word 2010 desktop. The 508 Accessibility toolbar is at the top of your Microsoft Word screen (toward the right).

Image of the SSA Word accessibility toolbar

The toolbar makes it easy to design, test, and fix Word documents for 508 compliance.

Step 1

The toolbar provides a Word 508 Accessibility 508 checklist that offers simple step-by-step instructions supported by visual guides and short videos on every major topic. The checklist also provides several options to get help.

Image of the SSA Word accessibility checklist start page

Step 2

The toolbar provides a quick link to Microsoft’s built-in automated Section 508 checker, which can help speed up the testing process.

Image of the Word accessibility toolbar and the Microsoft automated accessibility checker

Accessibility Checklist Help

The toolbar provides an index of potential issues and where to find answers.

Image of the SSA Word accessibility checklist index page

How do I make my Word documents Section 508 compliant?

The Microsoft Word 2010 508 Accessibility Checklist provides a document author with simple step-by-step instructions and visual guides for testing and fixing accessibility issues in their document. Because this checklist was designed to work hand-in-hand with Microsoft’s Automated Accessibility Checker, it is divided into two steps:

  • Step 1 covers how to test and fix five document elements that the Automated Checker does not address.
  • Step 2 gives “How to fix” instructions for fourteen document elements identified by the Automated Checker.

Consult Using the checklist for more information on how to use the Accessibility Checklist.

Need More Help?

Review FAQs
Review answers to commonly asked questions.

Get assistance by email
Send your questions or comment by email.

Communicator assistance
(online chat)
Contact a 508 Word Accessibility specialist through Office Communicator.

More resources
See the Accessibility Resource Center for more information on electronic document accessibility.

Get updates
Get email updates on changes to Section 508 technical guidance, procedures, tools and resources.