Microsoft Office Accessibility Training Sessions for the Australian Government

Accessibility Team - AGIMO
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In a similar manner to the Adobe education sessions run 12 months ago, Microsoft will be running two training sessions in Canberra on optimising the accessibility of Microsoft Office documents. These sessions will primarily focus on Word, however PowerPoint and Excel will also be covered. The sessions have been designed specifically for Australian Public Service (APS) personnel.

As government agencies are obliged to make all online information accessible and authors are responsible for ensuring the accessibility of their documents, it is important that authors understand how to do this properly. Our initial National Transition Strategy (NTS) survey highlighted the need for better education around the creation of more accessible online documents. Creating an accessible Word document is often the first step to creating accessible PDFs and web pages. We are very keen to develop accessible document authoring skills across the APS, so if you are responsible for authoring web content or creating other documents, these sessions are for you.

In these sessions Microsoft will walk users through common techniques for creating accessible documents in Microsoft Office. The presentation will cover information about both the tools available for ensuring accessibility as well as how to effectively use styles and formatting. Users will also be given a basic understanding of how to correctly use graphics in a document. The sessions will be led by Daniel Hubbell. Daniel is the Technical Evangelist for Microsoft’s Accessibility team and is also the president of the board of directors for the Assistive Technology Industry Association. Daniel has a degree in communications from San Francisco State University and has been with Microsoft for more than 14 years.

Two identical training sessions will run in the morning and afternoon of 24 May 2012 at the University of Canberra. Please note that attendance is free but places are limited. Please register online directly with Microsoft to secure your place.

If you cannot attend on this date, don’t worry – Microsoft intends to record the sessions and will make them available to be viewed after the event.


Comments on this blog are now closed. Please let us know if you would like to discuss this post or have any general comments.

Comments (17)

Is there any progress on posting the video from the sessions yet?

Hi, is there any news on when the videos might be available?

Hi, in the interests of information sharing across agencies on accessibility, if you're interested, I took some comprehensive notes from this seminar, which I found really useful. I would be interested in making contacts in other agencies, so we can share documents, guidelines etc that we each produce. We're all doing the same thing, but working independently, so it makes sense to share documents as we produce them and modify to suit specific agency. No sense re-inventing the wheel. My email is

> Microsoft Word is used by many, if not all, of Australian Gov Departments for the outdated practice of word processing.


This seems interesting initiative. I agree with Chris, it will be great if we can have some videos and materials to download.

The Accessibility of MS Office documents really depends on the version of Office being used in your department. We currently use Office 2003, but with an upgrade to Office 2010 coming up later this year I have been creating Accessible guides for the different applications.

Microsoft provide some good guides that can be used - and will probably provide as much (if not more) detail than the video we all eagerly await...

Would love to see these videos.

I couldn't make the session - any word on when the video will become available?


Microsoft Word is used by many, if not all, of Australian Gov Departments for word processing.

Structuring this content properly is a step towards making accessible content - this content may be in a variety of end formats - (x)html, pdf, rtf, etc. PDF is used in both the printing world, and now more and more frequently, in the online world - and as such it is valid to discuss the creation of accessible PDFs.

The W3C has now provided us with Sufficient Techniques to make accessible PDFs as well...

This forum is a place to share knowledge and help other Accessibility practitioners in the APS towards WCAG conformance, not to criticize vendors and Accessibility practitioners...


> we put it through our converter to make accessible HTML.
I hadn't even mentioned in my original post the specialised tool set required to make MS Word documents usable, but thank you for bringing it up. Compare your specialised tool (that the general public does not have access to) to this: <p></p>. You probably recognise that, it's how you convert text to accessible on-line content*.

> it also makes much more accessible PDFs out of the box.
And that's great, if you want to type set a document for printing. PDF is a type setting format, not a content format.

> and visually impaired office workers benefit from properly formatted documents.
Emphasis mine. Correct; and what you do in the privacy of your office is your business. If you intend to publish it on-line though, it needs to be in a format suitable for on-line consumption.

> also accessibility is a sliding scale. Accessible Word is better than in-accessible Word.
And an amputated hand is better than an amputated arm. What's your point?

I am by no means saying you shouldn't have accessibility in mind when you type set your documents for printing, but be aware that that is what you're doing.
You're type setting a document for printing. If your intent is not to print it then you've made a mistake, your peers and customers will think less of you and we all suffer.

* Style should be applied dynamically with CSS.

That sounds great.

Can we get notified when the video is up please.

(and if we could get any support material available for download too, that would be awesome)

In response to some enquiries we've had, the post has been updated to confirm that attendance to these sessions is free.

I think I can help out here, there seems to be a crucial mistake in the premiss. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to "make all on-line information accessible" and you think "I'll be able to do that with more training in Microsoft Word" you've made a fatal mistake. The concept of 'word processing' and 'on-line accessibility are mutually exclusive. A word processor has different design goals to accessibility, a word processor is designed for type setting documents that ultimately will be printed. Paper is incompatible with on-line accessibility. If you attempt to use a word processing tool to create content that is to be disseminated in an accessible form you have already failed. Accessibility for people with disabilities necessitates being able to dynamically change the presentation of the content to suit the needs of the reader, this is incompatible with the design of a word processor.

Additionally and specifically in relation to using a Microsoft Office application to generate content; you are adding an additional barrier to consumption, even for people without a disability. It is not appropriate, under any circumstance for a government agency to publish information in a format that can not be consumed without paying a licence fee to a private organisation.

If additional training is required, it is in reminding people that it is 2012, and when you put content on-line that is type set for A4 paper you look incompetent and unprofessional. Don't do it.

Hi Warwick - no need to register, we'll link to the video from here when it is available.

Hi, I'm unable to attend the sessions in person. Do I need to register to gain access to the videos? Or will they be shared online freely? Thanks!

Fair points Ross, but a few points:

I know we find that a properly formatted word document will generally require no (or minimal) modification when we put it through our converter to make accessible HTML. also makes much more accessible PDFs out of the box.

...and visually impaired office workers benefit from properly formatted documents.

...also accessibility is a sliding scale. Accessible Word is better than in-accessible Word.

If you missed the recent posts on the AGIMO Blog, the videos and transcripts from these sessions are available at

Last updated: 02 August 2016