Improving the Accessibility of CI Docs


CI Docs is CSU Channel Islands instance of Google Drive and is a great tool for collaboration. This page has been created to equip you with methods and suggestions for increasing the accessibility of documents produced through CI Docs. Please note that materials created in CI Docs may not be as accessible as material created in Microsoft Word.


Paragraph headings provide context and a way to navigate quickly for users of assistive technologies like screen readers; these technologies ignore text size and emphasis (bold, italic, underline) unless certain paragraph styles (i.e. Headings) are used.Styles modify the formatting of all occurrences in a document, so you can quickly change the format of all Headings of a particular level (you can still override global settings by changing the format of an individual piece of text, regardless of style assignment). Additionally, Headings can be used to automatically generate a Table of Contents or bookmarks in a document.

Headings should be selected based on their hierarchy in the document. Start the page with a  H1 or Heading 1 which describes the overall document content. Follow it with sub-headings (Heading 2) and sub sub-headings (Heading 3), and so on. Items of equal importance should have equal level headings, and heading levels should not be skipped (i.e., a Heading 3 can’t be the first heading after Heading 1; Heading 2 can’t be skipped).

To make an item a heading in Google Docs, select the Styles drop-down menu, located to the left of the font drop-down menu.

Updating text to a Heading 1

The Headings can also be called with keyboard shortcuts:
For PCs; Ctrl+Alt+1 (Heading 1), Ctrl+Alt+2 (Heading 2), etc.
For Macs; Cmd+Opt+1 (Heading 1), Cmd+Opt+2 (Heading 2), etc

Heading styles help a screen reader to navigate through a CI Doc page. Heading 1 should be used as the page title, and Heading 2 is used for subsections and Heading 3 is used for sub-subsections respectively.


When using images it is important to make sure they are accessible by adding Alternative Text, or Alt Text. Alternative text for images, charts, graphs, and tables is vital to ensuring that users with visual impairments have access to information included in these visuals.

This descriptive text should be limited to 120 characters for simple images, while the alternative text for graphs, tables, and complex images (such as detailed maps and diagrams) should give a brief summary of the included information. Alternative text should provide sufficient information so that students who are unable to see them are still able to understand what they convey. Images used for purely decorative purposes (i.e., those that do not provide any meaningful information) should not have alternative text. If the body of the document already contains a sufficiently detailed description in close proximity to the image, the alternative text can simply identify the image so that the reader knows when it is being referred to.

While there are no hard and fast rules for determining what alternative text should say (it depends on the image, its context, the intent of the author, etc.), one simple trick is to imagine describing the image to someone over the phone. The more important an image’s content is, the more descriptive the alternative text should be.

For charts and graphs, chart type (i.e., bar, pie, line, etc.), data type or axes, overall trends or patterns, and relevant data points should be described. For example, a simple chart might have the following alternative text: “Bar chart of number of traffic fatalities in Los Angeles county from 2008-2010. Fatalities have increased for the last two years. There were 121 fatalities in 2008, 157 in 2009, and 160 in 2010.”

  1. Upload and embed the image
  2. Click the image file
  3. Format > Alt Text
  4. In the Alt Text window, enter your alternative text in the Description field
Add Alt Text to image in CI Docs

Color Contrast

It is essential that appropriate contrast exist between text and the background. In general, lightly colored text should have a darker background and darkly colored text should have a light background. Colour Contrast Analyser is a helpful tool for testing the color contrast of your content and is available for Windows and Macs. For more assistance on how to test the accessibility of your color contrast, contact


Like headings, using the built in bulleted list and numbered list styles to create lists ensures that screen readers can effectively read the listed items. Manually inserting any of the list items will not help. Any numbered list that has multiply layers should use a different numbering scheme for each level.

Use the ‘Insert List’ icons on the formatting toolbar to create a list.

Adding a numbered or bulleted list in CI Docs


It is also important to ensure your document is easy to read, not only for those with assistive technologies, but also those that don’t use them.

Sans-serif fonts are considered more legible fonts for monitors than serif fonts.

Serif and Sans Serif fonts

Color plays an important role in any document. The color scheme itself should have contrast between light and dark without going to the extreme. Too little or too much contrast can make the document difficult to read for those who are colorblind or with low vision. Certain color combinations, such as bright colors, can cause headaches and make it uncomfortable to read content.

Table of Contents

To improve quality of navigation for assistive technologies, it is recommended to add a table of contents. Throughout the document you must designate headings, because these are what are used to generate the table of contents section. Using headings is also an accessibility best practice within documents. Doing so also provides other advantages for the author including the ability to rapidly modify the overall document style without having to change each individual header.

Select Insert > Table of Contents

Inserting Table of Contents in CI Docs

This content is adapted from resources by Michigan State University and is shared under a CC-BY-NC license.

Using Grackle Docs

Grackle Docs is an add-on that extends the accessibility of Google Docs (CI Docs) by automatically checking all aspects of your document and advising you how to make things better. Once you are satisfied that your document is truly accessible, Grackle Docs gives you the ability to create tagged PDFs.

Refer to the Create Accessible PDFs with Grackle Docs page for step-by-step directions.

Updated on July 3, 2021

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