Accessible Maths: Microsoft equation editor


In addition to the general features of making an accessible Office document  (e.g. document headers, appropriate alt-text etc), for technical contexts you need to take care of any mathematical input and tables to make these documents accessible.

Only use the Microsoft Equation Environment for maths and symbols

The Microsoft Equation environment must be used for all maths input to make it accessible to screen readers. This includes including inline maths entry with any maths content: for example:  π, sin(x), 28, CH4 and H+ must be written using the Insert Equation option.

It is important to not encode any maths content (i.e. equations and symbols) via;

  • Inserting Symbol from the character map
  • Using super/subscripts shortcuts (subscript/superscripts created in this way will not be read by screen readers)
  • Inserting or copying an equation as an image into a document

Please follow the instructions for inserting an equation into Microsoft Office products.

Efficient use of the Equation Editor in Word

Math Centre have a detailed tutorial on how to keyboard entry (rather than the Graphical interface) for effective entry of equations in Word.

Writing equations in Word – YouTube

Key tips:

  • It is possible to Press Alt =  Word or Powerpoint to insert a new equation.
  • Align multi-line equations at the equals sign (select the equations, right click and select “Align at =” or use the \eqarray and & notation
  • Using LaTex in Word

Creating Accessible Tables in Word

It is important to mark the headers of a table so a reader knows the relationship between the cells and the headers which may be many rows above. This is often already set by default (this is obvious if the default formatting of the first row is different).

  1. Insert a new table to your document.
  2. In the Design tab, ensure that Header Row and First Column are checked if the first row and column are indexes for your table.

Tips for accessible tables

  • To improve readability for all users, under the Table Properties for Row
    • Deselect “Allow row to break across pages”
    • Select “Repeat as header row at the top of each page”
  • It is also good practice to provide captions/titles for tables, even for sighted users.
  • Avoid merging cells: if cells are merged, screen readers can get confused on which cells refer to the header
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