Saksham organised a training webinar on Word Document Accessibility on the 13th of July, 2022. Intended as an effort to bring organisations working for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)up to date with contemporary document accessibility practices, the session was well-attended by Saksham staff and additionally by representatives from other organisations like Arushi in Bhopal. As is widely known, text is the most versatile and malleable format of communication in terms of accessibility, so too are word documents one of the most versatile and flexible starting points in the creation of accessible books. This is because word documents offer the capabilities of conversion into a wide variety of other formats, alongside the advantages of retaining, through the process of the conversion, all or most of the formatting and styling performed on the contents of the document.
With this baseline established, Mr. Arif from Saksham, who was the primary instructor for this session picked up the threads from the point after the OCR results of the book had been brought to a word document and proofread. The session lead the attendees through the processes of formatting and adding alt text to pictures in the eBook, formatting tables to reflect column and row headers appropriately, inserting footnotes, structuring the document by systematically marking up the content with a hierarchy of headings to correspond to the content of the book, and finally converting the properly formatted eBook into the desired format (epub, in this particular demonstration).
Ms. Sreeja of Saksham quite pithily encapsulated the essence of the session by explaining how using native styling strategies in Microsoft Word would always yield better accessibility results as compared to manually styling the content. In other words, applying the native heading style, for instance, would make the content recognisable as a heading to a screen reader in ways that applying manual font styles wouldn’t. The attendees took active interest in the processes demonstrated, and asked questions to seek clarification on the topics as they were being covered. With a few final questions about screen reader usage in conjunction with the accessibility best practices that were shared, the session concluded with the instructor expressing openness to discuss any part of the content individually with any of the attendees, if the latter so wished.