The Problem with Remediating Native Documents

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Our 508 compliance expert, Sonja Guice, takes the time to explain why remediating documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and InDesign provides a less than ideal experience for your end-users.

Microsoft Office icons including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and NotePad

The Notorious Request

Can you keep my document in a Word, PowerPoint or Excel document when remediating?

We often receive requests to remediate documents for compliance and accessibility in a document composition format. However, the majority of these formats include Word and PowerPoint documents. To the author, this seems like a simple request that requires minimum labor. However, keeping documents in the composition format for remediation is not recommended and can create issues for end-users. This will result in the document becoming inaccessible and noncompliant.

Software Dependent

When posting an accessible Word or PowerPoint document on your website the end-user must use a Microsoft product to access the document. This may pose a challenge due to the following:

  • Cannot Afford Microsoft Office ($69 to $149 a year)
  • Cannot Access Microsoft Suite
  • Compatibility Issues

When you post a document that is dependent on a software that is not free, you limit your audience.

To ensure accessibility and compliance we always recommend converting all formats to an accessible PDF. Acrobat Reader is a free software that can be downloaded on any device.

End-User Can Change the Document

A Microsoft document that is posted online, has the capability of being altered by the end-user. The majority of the documents that are posted on websites are not locked and can be changed. A visually impaired user can make the following changes without being aware.

  • Delete Content
  • Shift Content
  • Change Pertinent Information

This is another instance that providing accessible and compliant PDFs is the safest and most convenient format to provide to all users.

Design and Layout Changes

Creating a compliant and accessible Word, PowerPoint or InDesign document, the design and layout will change depending on the complexity and layout. Changes will occur to the following items.

  • Wrapping of text
  • Position of Images
  • Increase in Page Count

The layout and design of the document can remain unchanged when remediating a PDF.


Document accessibility guidelines will fall under one of the following.

Specific remediation guidelines exist for PDF documents. On the other hand, the HHS guidelines map the PDF guidelines to apply to Microsoft documents by using a checklist. Remapping guidelines to fit another format poses a lot of issues. In summary, Microsoft documents do not have universal standard guidelines.

PDF Document Remediation

Remediating your documents in a PDF format is the best method for accessibility. Accessible and compliant PDFs are

  • Reliable
  • Efficient
  • Safest
  • Visually Appealing
  • Most Accessible

Now You Know

There aren’t many materials on this topic. So what better way to understand the impact of documents in PDF format than this blog with Sonja? She’s an expert on this subject, and we’re intent on giving you the information you need to make the most informed decisions.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like these posts an accessible PDFs:

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This post was written by Braille Works

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