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Accessibility in Google Docs

The Elgin Community College Accessibility Guides is an independent publication and is neither affiliated with nor authorized, sponsored, or approved by Adobe, Google, or Microsoft Corporation. For permission to use content from this presentation or link to this document, please contact the Elgin Community College Web Team at


Google Docs is widely used because of the ease of access. You can access Google documents using any browser on any device. Therefore, it is imperative that these documents are accessible to all, including people using assistive technologies. Consider and apply the tips in this guide to make your Google document accessible.

This training guide starts with topics that most Google Docs users know. Later sections include more in-depth information regarding accessibility, such as alternative text, accessibility testing, etc. After completing this training guide, you will be able to:

If you use keyboard-only navigation to make Google Docs accessible, view the keyboard shortcuts for Google Docs.


Think of headings as headlines in a newspaper that contain the title of the topic. Google Docs provides a way to add headings to the document in terms of heading levels such as heading 1, heading 2, heading 3, etc.

Sometimes headings are misused to create a particular style; however, these heading levels help assistive technologies scan a document. Using them for only an aesthetic purpose confuses the organization of the information.

Use appropriate heading levels without skipping the levels when organizing a document. For example, heading 2 should follow heading 1, heading 3 should follow heading 2, and so on.

Learn more about accessible heading structure.

To apply a heading style:

  1. Select the text for your heading (good headings are concise).
  2. Using the Styles panel, select the heading type you want to apply.


Google Docs provides built-in styles to add headings, paragraphs, etc. You can modify the format of the existing style to ensure that it passes accessibility testing. To do so:

  1. Select and format the text with desired fonts, colors, etc.
    Style text
  2. Click on Styles and go to the style you want to change.
  3. Then click on “Update style to match.” The style will be updated to match the format of the selected text. This formats the styles for the entire document.
    Update heading style


Hyperlinks are one of the most important pieces of information in a presentation and provide expanded details on a topic. Visit the accessible content page to learn how to write accessible hyperlinks.

To add hyperlinks:

  1. Select the link text.
  2. Right-click the selected link text and select Link.
  3. A dropdown window appears. Add the hyperlink text in the Text field and include the full URL in the search field below it. You cannot link to “smart URLs.” For example, linking to will not send you to the correct location on the website. Instead, use the full https:// URL. For example, will get the user to the correct location.
    Link example


Lists are helpful to organize information, provide styling, and call out a particular process. Use ordered lists when the order matters; otherwise, use unordered lists. The screen readers announce the number of items in the lists which makes it easier for users to scan information.

To use lists:

  1. Select Numbered list or Bulleted list from the panel.
    Lists menu
  2. Click on the little arrow button beside the lists to choose the type of symbols or numbers.
    Lists dropdown menus

Tables, Charts, and Graphs

Learn how to create accessible tables, charts, and graphs.

Proper Spacing

It is a common practice to use the TAB, SPACEBAR, or ENTER key to add space between the text or to indent the text for visual purposes. However, using these keys to control spacing makes the text confusing for screen reader users and people with reading disabilities. Instead, it is better to control spacing using the tools offered by Google Docs to format the text.


Use this tool if you need to add space horizontally. This option is a replacement for the TAB key. To indent the text:

  1. Select the text you want to move to the left or right.
  2. From the toolbar, click on the left indent to move the text to the left side and the right indent to move the text to the right side. 
    Indent options


Before indent

After adding the right indent to the second paragraph:

After indent

Line Spacing

Line space adds vertical space between the lines (e.g., single-spaced, double-spaced, 1.5). Instead of using Enter or the Spacebar key to add space between the lines, Google Docs offers a line spacing tool.

To use the line spacing tool:

  1. Select the text you want to add the space in between the lines.
  2. Click on the line and paragraph spacing tool icon from the toolbar.
    Line spacing tool
  3. Clicking on the icon opens a dropdown menu that shows all the available line spacing options. Click on the option to apply the line spacing to the text.
    Paragraph spacing

Alternative text

This section includes a step-by-step process of adding alt text to images, charts, and graphs. The alt text is crucial for screen reader users. Users won’t understand the image and its content without the alt text. Visit the accessible content page to learn about how to write proper alt text.

Learn how to add alt text to your content.

Table of Contents

Add a table of contents at the beginning of the document for navigation purposes. The table of contents uses the headings to create navigation links. Make sure the document has appropriate headings. Here is how you can add a table of contents:

  1. Go to Insert > Table of Contents.
  2. Hover over the Table of Contents option to view the layouts. Choose a layout and click on it.
    Table of contents

Accessibility Testing

Learn how to perform accessibility tests on your document.