Accessible documents

From September 2020 any new documents, images and videos published on any government website must be accessible.  We will be breaking the law if they are not.

The same rules apply to existing documents published after September 2018. If they are not accessible you must publish a statement to tell people when they will be made accessible and how they can access an alternative format if needed.

The regulations don’t require us to fix documents published before 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services. But you must tell people how to access information in other formats if needed.

Before you create a document

  • Think about the customer - service information must always be presented as a webpage.
  • Documents can make content harder to find, use and maintain.
  • Documents may not always work well with assistive technologies like screen readers.
  • Forms must be online. You can log a job in user hub for an online form.

If you have commissioned an agency or marketing consultancy, it is your responsibility to make them aware of government accessibility legislation as we cannot publish documents that don't meet the requirements.

Creating accessible documents

1. Use clear and simple language

Simple language makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities and helps all users to understand and process information quickly.

Read our content guidelines for tips on how to write clearly.

2. Format and structure

Government Digital Service (GDS) has published guidance on how to format and structure documents to make them accessible.

Read GDS standards and apply them to your document.

3. Create an accessible document using Microsoft Word

Once you understand the importance of using simple language, format and structure, you can create your document.  

Microsoft Word has a number of accessibility features that make it easy to create accessible documents. These include:

  • headings
  • lists
  • alt text for images
  • data tables
  • document language
  • accessibility checker.

Read our 'how to guide' for creating accessible documents using our corporate templates.

Read how to access and use Microsoft's accessibility checker

Read the University of Washington's guide on using Microsoft Word's accessibility features.

4. Create an accessible PDF from Microsoft Word

When you have created your accessible Word document, you will need to convert it to a PDF for it to be published on the website. If the document has been created at source in Microsoft Word, the conversion will transfer all accessible elements to the PDF. Please make sure you keep a copy of your original Word document in case you need to edit or update it later on. 

Read the University of Washington's guide on creating an accessible PDF from Microsoft Word.

5. Checking PDFs for accessibility

It is always best to start with an accessible source (Microsoft Word) and use the accessibility features in step 3 before converting it to PDF.

If a PDF has been created professionally by a graphic designer or marketing agency, you should seek the original source or speak to the designer that created it to review and make accessible.

WebAim has written a PDF accessibility article on how to review and repair a PDF for accessibility.

6. Create an accessible Excel document

Microsoft has a useful guide on how to make Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities.

Read the Microsoft Excel accessibility guide.

Read how to access and use Microsoft's accessibility checker.

7. Create accessible videos

All users should be able to consume video content. An accessible video includes captions, a transcript, and audio description and is delivered in an accessible media player.

Read our 'how to' guide for creating accessible video content.

Read the University of Washington's guide on creating accessible videos.

Remember, documents and other content that is not accessible can no longer be published on You must make every effort to make your content as accessible as possible. If documents don't comply with the new legislation, they will be returned to service areas with recommendations on how to make them accessible.