Document Accessibility – Design

Design Ribbon Tab

The Design Ribbon Tab in Word 2013 allows you to choose and/customize themes, colors and fonts for your document, as well as some other document formatting.

Design Ribbon TabThemes & Document Formatting

This benefits everyone because Themes and Document Formatting (along with the use of Styles and Headings and other built-in document structure features) allow you to keep things consistent and more easily update a document. It’s usually much easier and more consistent than trying to achieve similar effects with typography.

Choosing a Theme affects your Colors, Fonts and Effects.

Document Formatting lets you choose a Style Set, which affects your Font and Paragraph properties.


Don’t rely on color alone to convey content. Use color plus another form of communication if needed. The use of color is very helpful in some instances! Textured and/or colored backgrounds, however, are generally difficult to deal with, so avoid using those. However, remember that people with visual impairments, including color blindness, will likely be unable to distinguish color differences. Likewise, someone may be printing a black and white (or grayscale) copy of the document or have a screen that doesn’t show colors properly.

Colored Text Example

Don’t do this: Items indicated in red are required.

Do this instead: Items indicated in red and with an asterisk (*) are required.

Contrast (Luminance Contrast)

When adding color, also remember the importance of contrast. (Technically, it’s called “luminance contrast.”) Some users (such as some with low vision) need high contrast. However, others (such as some with reading disabilities) have trouble with the bright colors of high contrast (high luminance), so what they actually need is low luminance. Don’t worry about the technicality of ratios, but use common sense – be sure you can easily read your own document! A quick test of grayscale may help you decide if the contrast is sufficient.

Color contrast example:

Good contrast and Bad contrast

Tips to assist individuals who are colorblind when you are creating charts or graphs:

  • Avoid red, orange and green.
  • Use texture instead of color to denote different areas. (You’ll just need to be careful that the texture doesn’t interfere with reading any text.)


Using one of Word’s built-in Theme Fonts is a pretty safe bet for decent readability.

Font Options in Design Ribbon TabHere are some other quick tips:

  • Use 12-18 point fonts for paragraph/body text. (Headings will obviously be larger.)
    • Word’s default size for Normal/paragraph text will be 10-12 points. (A new, blank Word 2013 document is set for Calibri and an 11 point font.)
    • Use a 10 point font at the very least for paragraph text.
  • Choose simple, sans serif fonts (avoid “flowery” fonts, especially for paragraph text).
  • Use normal weight fonts (rather than bold or light fonts).



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