by Kostas Yfantis, CITES EdTech Consultant
The web is a powerful medium for distributing instructional materials to students. It is common for many instructors to convert their Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents into web-based materials that can be easily accessed by their students. Unfortunately, however, the "Save to Web" feature typically used to convert Office documents into HTML documents does not support accessibility for students with disabilities. The University requires all instructors to provide accessible versions of instructional materials to students with disabilities, ideally at the same time as all other students. The Illinois Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office allows instructors to fulfill this requirement by creating multiple web versions of Office documents that are accessible to students with disabilities and therefore are more useful for every student.
The Wizard provides many features not found in the built-in "Save to Web" function, like note and outline views of PowerPoint presentations. The Wizard empowers faculty, students, and staff to create web versions of Office documents that ensure a high level of accessibility without having to know details of web accessibility standards and design principles. Even professional web designers can benefit from the functionality of this easy-to-use tool by making it simple for them to include HTML versions of Office documents in addition to, or instead of, PDF versions.
All students benefit from the additional document views that are compatible with a wider range of browsers, including PDAs and cell phone technologies. The Wizard is available for the Windows Operating System (XP, 2003, 2000, NT 4, 98, 98SE, ME) and the supported versions of Microsoft Office (XP, 2003, 2000). Prior to installing the Wizard, users need to install the .NET Framework 1.1 on their computers.
The Wizard is not available for Mac OS users. Macintosh users of Microsoft Word can import their documents into an HTML Editor and create web pages. Macromedia's popular HTML Editor, Dreamweaver, offers a functionality called "Clean-up Microsoft Word HTML" that allows users to get rid of non-standard HTML tags that interfere with accessibility. There are similar tools for creating accessible web presentations such as the HTML Slidy. Information about this program can be obtained at: www.w3.org/Talks/Tools/Slidy/. You can also speak with CITES Educational Technologies staff to explore more options for creating accessible web documents on the Mac OS.
The Illinois Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office was developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The CITES Software WebStore offers the Wizard for free to U of I faculty, staff, and students.
The .NET Framework 1.1 can be downloaded from the Microsoft web site at:
To learn more about the Wizard and look at demos of how it works, you can visit:
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed an illuminating and very useful introduction to web accessibility: