Make your Visio diagram accessible to people with disabilities

This topic gives you step-by-step instructions on how to make your Visio diagrams accessible and unlock your content to everyone, including people with disabilities. When you create your diagrams with inclusivity in mind, everyone can read and understand the concepts and ideas in them.

In this topic, you'll learn how to use the Accessibility Checker to tackle accessibility issues that might make it difficult for people with disabilities to use the diagrams. You'll also learn how to add alt texts to images and shapes so that people using screen readers are able to listen to what the image or shape is all about. You can also read about how to use templates, fonts, and colors to maximize the inclusiveness of your diagram before sharing it with others.

In this topic

Best practices for making Visio diagrams accessible

The following table includes best practices for creating Visio diagrams that are accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix

Why fix it

How to fix it

Avoid common accessibility issues such as missing alt text, incorrect diagram reading order, and low contrast colors.

Make it easy for everyone to understand and use your diagrams.

Check your diagram with the Accessibility Checker

Test accessibility with a screen reader

Use the predefined Visio templates.

In the templates, the navigation order is predefined, making it easier for screen reader users to understand the flow.

Create a new diagram from a template

Create your diagrams in the order in which you want a screen reader to read them.

Screen readers navigate the diagram shapes in the order in which they were added to the diagram.

Add shapes to a diagram in the order in which the diagram flows and adjust the order as needed.

Adjust the reading order

Include alternative text with all visuals and pages.

Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen understand what’s important in pages and visuals, such as images, shapes, master shapes, charts, illustrations, and data graphics.

To find missing alternative text, use the Accessibility Checker.

Add alt text that describes the image, shape, or page for people who can't see it.

Add alt text to diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages

Add a meaningful hyperlink text.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links.

Add accessible hyperlink text

Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information.

People with impaired vision, no vision, or colorblindness might miss the meaning conveyed by particular colors.

Use additional means to convey the information, such as a shape or label.

Use accessible shape color

Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.

The text in your diagrams should be readable in the high contrast mode so that everyone, including people with visual disabilities, can see it well.

For example, use bright colors or high-contrast color schemes on opposite ends of the color spectrum.

Use accessible text formatting

Use accessible shape color

Use a larger font size (18pt or larger), sans-serif fonts, and sufficient white space.

People with dyslexia perceive text in a way that can make it difficult to distinguish letters and words.

Use accessible text formatting

Adjust alignment and space between sentences and paragraphs

Use built-in list styles.

To make it easier for everyone to scan the text in your diagrams, use the built-in list formatting tools.

Create accessible lists

Create accessible PDFs.

Include accessibility tags to PDF files you create from your diagrams. The tags make it possible for screen readers and other assistive technologies to read and navigate a document.

Convert your diagram to an accessible PDF

Top of Page 

Check your diagram with the Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is a tool that reviews your content and flags accessibility issues it comes across. It explains why each issue might be a potential problem for someone with a disability. The Accessibility Checker also suggests how you can resolve the issues that appear. With the built-in Accessibility Checker, you can easily verify whether your diagram is accessible.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to work with the Accessibility Checker, go to Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker.

Top of Page  

Create a new diagram from a template

Use a Visio template to get started quickly with creating an accessible diagram. When someone who can see reads a diagram, they usually read things, such as text or a picture, in the order the elements appear in a diagram. In contrast, a screen reader reads the elements of a diagram in the order they were added to the diagram, which might be very different from the order in which things appear. In a Visio template, the navigation order is predefined, making it easier for screen reader users to understand the flow. 

For the step-by-step instructions on how to use a template, go to Video: Create a diagram from a template. To learn more about the available templates, go to Featured Visio templates and diagrams.

Top of Page  

Adjust the reading order

When you add the shapes in the diagram in the order in which a flowchart is supposed to run, it's easier for a screen reader user to understand the diagram flow. You can edit the reading order even after adding the shapes.

  1. Select View > Task Panes > Navigation.

  2. In the Diagram Navigation pane, drag and drop the shapes to change their order.

For more info on how the screen readers read diagrams, refer to Use a screen reader to read Visio diagrams.

Top of Page   

Add alt text to diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages

Alt text helps people who use screen readers to understand what’s important in your diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages. In alt text, describe the content of the diagram, visual, shape, or page, and mention its intent. Keep it brief but include descriptions of what's important about the image or page. Screen readers read the description to users who can’t see the content.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you use images with text in them, repeat the text in the alt text. 

For detailed info on how to write alt text, go to Everything you need to know to write effective alt text

Top of Page  

Add alt text to Data Visualizer diagrams

Add alternative text to elements and shapes in a Data Visualizer diagram. For detailed instructions on how to create a Data Visualizer diagram, go to Create a Data Visualizer diagram.

  1. Start creating a Data Visualizer diagram as instructed in Create a Data Visualizer diagram. You can add the alternative texts when you reach the end of Stage 2: Create an Excel workbook.

  2. When you're ready, select the Process Map tab.

  3. In the predefined Excel table, select the first cell under the Alt Description column header and type your alt text. Repeat for all the elements and shapes in your diagram.

    Screen shot of Data Visualizer diagram creation in Excel
  4. Continue creating the diagram as instructed in Create a Data Visualizer diagram.

Top of Page  

Add alt text to visuals

Describe what's important in visuals, such as images, shapes, data graphics, charts, photos, and illustrations. If your image is purely decorative, mention that in the alt text.

  1. Right-click an image in your drawing and select Format Shape.

  2. In the Format Shape pane, select Sizing properties button (Size & Properties).

  3. In the Alt Text section, type a title and a description for the image. When you're ready, you can close the Alt Text pane.

    Tip: Fill in both the Title and Description fields because the way this information is read varies by screen reader.

The Alt text dialog box for visuals in Visio for Windows.

Top of Page  

Add alt text to master shapes

If you've created a custom stencil, you can add alt texts to the master shapes in your stencil so that screen reader users can hear a description of the shape.

  1. In the shapes list of your new stencil, right-click the master shape.

  2. In the context menu, select Edit Master > Edit Master Shape.

  3. In the edit window, right-click the master shape, and select Format Shape.

  4. In the Format Shape pane, select Sizing properties button (Size & Properties).

  5. In the Alt Text section, type a title and a description for the master shape.

    Alt text dialog for a master shape in Visio.
  6. Close the master shape edit window. You're prompted to update the master. In the confirmation dialog box, select Yes.

  7. Remember to save your stencil.

Top of Page  

Add alt text to pages

Add alternative texts to a page so that screen reader users can hear a description of the page.

  1. On the page, press Shift+F5. The Page Setup dialog box opens.

  2. In the dialog box, select the Alt Text tab.

  3. Type a title and a description for the page, and then select OK.

The Alt text dialog box for a page in Visio for Windows.

Top of Page  

Use accessible text formatting

To make the text in your diagrams easier to read and navigate, you can select an accessible font format or color, create browsable lists, and increase space between sentences and paragraphs.

Top of Page  

Use accessible font format and color

An accessible font doesn't exclude or slow down the reading speed of anyone reviewing your diagram, including people with low vision or reading disability. The right font improves the legibility and readability of the diagram.

To reduce the reading load, select familiar sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri. Avoid using all capital letters and excessive italics or underlines.

A person with a vision disability might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors. For example, add an underline to color-coded hyperlink text so that people who are colorblind know that the text is linked even if they can’t see the color. For headings, consider adding bold or using a larger font.

The text in your diagrams should be readable in a high contrast mode. For example, white and black schemes make it easier for people who are colorblind to distinguish text and shapes.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to format text in a diagram, go to Format text in a Visio drawing.

Top of Page  

Create accessible lists

Instead of using long textual sections in your diagrams, use bulleted or numbered lists so people who use screen readers can read and navigate your diagrams easily. In addition, people with reading disorders such as dyslexia depend on lists to help them structure information, so divide the information into smaller sized chunks that are easier to process.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to create lists, go to Create numbered or bulleted lists inside a shape.

Tip: Use a period or a comma at the end of each list item to make screen readers pause.

Top of Page  

Adjust alignment and space between sentences and paragraphs

People who have dyslexia describe seeing text “swim together” on a page (the compressing of one line of text into the line below). They often see text merge or distort. To reduce the reading load, you can increase white space between sentences and paragraphs. 

Left-align your paragraphs instead of using justification. This helps to avoid uneven gaps between words, which can create a visual effect of a river of white space flowing through the paragraph.

  1. Select the text you want to modify.

  2. On the Home tab, expand the Paragraph group.

  3. In the Text dialog box, select the Paragraph tab, and then do one or more of the following:

    • In the Alignment section, select Left.

    • In the Spacing section, type the values you want to use, and then select OK

Paragraph spacing dialog in Visio.

Top of Page  

Use accessible shape color

Choose an accessible shape color to make your diagram inclusive for everyone. For people with low vision and colorblindness it is important that you use a color contrast between the text in the shape and the shape background to distinguish outlines, borders, edges, and details. Shape color that is too close to the text color can be hard to read.

Make sure you don’t use color alone to convey meaning. Create text that duplicates the meaning of the color or other sensory characteristics. For example, consider using a green checkmark to indicate success and a red X to indicate failure, instead of green and red shading.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to change the shape color, go to Format a shape in Visio.

Top of Page  

Convert your diagram to an accessible PDF

Before converting a diagram into a PDF, make sure you run the Accessibility Checker and fix all reported issues.

  1. In Visio, select File > Save As > Browse. The Save As dialog box opens.

  2. In the Save As dialog box, navigate to and select the location where you want to save the PDF. If needed, rename the file.

  3. Expand the Save as type dropdown list and select PDF.

  4. Select Options, and make sure that the Document structure tags for accessibility checkbox is selected.

  5. Select OK > Save.

Top of Page  

Test accessibility with a screen reader 

When your diagram is ready and you've run the Accessibility Checker to make sure it is inclusive, you can try navigating the diagram using a screen reader, for example, Narrator. Narrator comes with Windows, so no need to install anything. This is one additional way to spot issues in the navigation order, for example.

  1. Start the screen reader. For example, to start Narrator, press Ctrl+Windows logo key+Enter.

  2. Press Esc once. The focus, the blue rectangle, moves to the diagram.

  3. Press the Tab key to navigate the elements in your diagram and fix the navigation order if needed.

  4. Exit the screen reader. For example, to exit Narrator, press Ctrl+Windows logo key+Enter.

See also

Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker

Rules for the Accessibility Checker

Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities

Make your Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities

Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities

Make your Outlook email accessible to people with disabilities

In this topic

Best practices for making Visio diagrams accessible

The following table includes best practices for creating Visio for the web diagrams that are accessible to people with disabilities. For more info on how to make your diagrams accessible, go to Make a diagram accessible in Visio for the web.

What to fix

Why fix it

How to fix it

Avoid common accessibility issues such as missing alt text, incorrect diagram reading order, and low contrast colors.

Make it easy for everyone to understand and use your diagrams. When the shapes are added in the order in which, for example, a flowchart is supposed to run, it's easier for a screen reader user to understand the diagram flow.

Check your diagram with the Accessibility Checker

Test accessibility with a screen reader

Use the predefined Visio for the web templates for diagrams.

In the templates and sample diagrams, the navigation order is predefined, making it easier for screen reader users to understand the flow.

Create a new diagram from a template

Create your diagrams in the order in which you want a screen reader to read them.

Screen readers read the diagram shapes in the order in which they were added in the diagram.

Add shapes to a diagram in the order in which the diagram flows and adjust the order as needed. 

If necessary, you can edit the reading order in the full desktop version of Visio to make it as logical as possible. For instructions, refer to the section "Adjust the reading order" on the Windows tab of this article.

For more info on how screen readers read diagrams, refer to Use a screen reader to read Visio diagrams.

Add descriptive page names.

Descriptive and distinctive page names help everyone identify what's on the page.

Name pages

Include alternative text with all visuals and pages.

Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen understand what’s important in pages and visuals, such as images, shapes, master shapes, charts, illustrations, and data graphics.

To find missing alternative text, use the Accessibility Checker.

Add alt text that describes the image, shape, or page for people who can't see it.

Add alt text to diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages

Add a meaningful hyperlink text.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links.

Add descriptive hyperlink text

Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information.

People with impaired vision, no vision, or colorblindness might miss the meaning conveyed by particular colors.

Use additional means to convey the information, such as a shape or label.

Use accessible shape color

Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.

The text in your diagrams should be readable in the high contrast mode so that everyone, including people with visual disabilities, can see it well.

For example, use bright colors or high-contrast color schemes on opposite ends of the color spectrum.

Use accessible text formatting

Use accessible shape color

Use a larger font size (18pt or larger), sans-serif fonts, and accessible paragraph alignment.

People with dyslexia might perceive text in a way that can make it difficult to distinguish letters and words.

Use accessible text formatting

Top of Page

Check your diagram with the Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is a tool that reviews your content and flags accessibility issues it comes across. It explains why each issue might be a potential problem for someone with a disability. The Accessibility Checker also suggests how you can resolve the issues that appear. With the built-in Accessibility Checker, you can easily verify whether your diagram is accessible.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to work with the Accessibility Checker, go to Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker.

Top of Page

Create a new diagram from a template

 Use a Visio template to get started quickly with creating an accessible diagram. When someone who can see reads a diagram, they usually read things, such as text or a picture, in the order the elements appear in a diagram. In contrast, a screen reader reads the elements of a diagram in the order they were added to the diagram, which might be very different from the order in which things appear. In a Visio template, the navigation order is predefined, making it easier for screen reader users to understand the flow. 

For the step-by-step instructions on how to use a template, go to Video: Create a diagram from a template. To learn more about the available templates, go to Featured Visio templates and diagrams.

Top of Page 

Name pages

Name your pages so that your audience can easily find out the content of the pages. Instead of using the default page names such as "Page-1" and "Page-2," create short but descriptive names for your pages.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to rename pages in Visio for the web, go to Add a new page in Visio.

Top of Page 

Add alt text to diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages

Alt text helps people who use screen readers to understand what’s important in your diagrams, visuals, master shapes, and pages. In alt text, describe the content of the diagram, visual, shape, or page, and mention its intent. Keep it brief but include descriptions of what's important about the image or page. If your image is purely decorative, mention that in the alt text. Screen readers read the description to users who can’t see the content.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you use images with text in them, repeat the text in the alt text.

For detailed info on how to write alt text, go to Everything you need to know to write effective alt text.

Add alt text to visuals

Describe what's important in visuals, such as pictures and shapes.

  1. Select a picture or shape in your drawing, and then select ShapeAlt-Text for shapes or Picture > Alt-Text for pictures.

  2. In the Alternative Text dialog box, type a title and a description for the picture or shape.

    Keep it short, start with the most important information, and aim to convey the content and functionality of the picture or shape.

    Tip: Fill in both the Title and Description fields, as the way this information is read varies by screen reader.

  3. When you're ready, select OK.

    The Alt Text dialog box in Visio for the web

Top of Page 

Add alt text to pages

Add alt texts to pages so that screen reader users can hear a description of the page.

  1. On the page, right-click the page number or name, and then select Alt Text.

  2. In the Alternative Text dialog box, type a title and a description for the page in the text fields.

    Keep it short, start with the most important information, and aim to convey the purpose of the page. 

    Tip: Fill in both the Title and Description fields, as the way this information is read varies by screen reader.

  3. When you're ready, select OK

Top of Page 

Use accessible text formatting

To make the text in your diagrams easier to read and navigate, you can select an accessible font format and color, use accessible text alignment, and increase space between sentences and paragraphs.

Use accessible font format and color

An accessible font doesn't exclude or slow down the reading speed of anyone reviewing your diagram, including people with low vision or reading disability. The right font improves the legibility and readability of the diagram.

To reduce the reading load, select familiar sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri. Avoid using all capital letters and excessive italics or underlines.

A person with a vision disability might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors. For example, add an underline to color-coded hyperlink text so that people who are colorblind know that the text is linked even if they can’t see the color. For headings, consider adding bold or using a larger font.

The text in your diagrams should be readable in a high contrast mode. For example, white and black schemes make it easier for people who are colorblind to distinguish text and shapes.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to format text in a diagram, go to Format text in a Visio drawing.

Top of Page 

Use accessible paragraph alignment 

Left-align your paragraphs instead of using justification. This helps to avoid uneven gaps between words, which can create a visual effect of a river of white space flowing through the paragraph.

  1. Select your text.

  2. On the Home tab, select The Align Text button in Visio for the web (Align Text), and then select Align Left button in the Align Text menu in Visio for the web. (Align Text Left).

    The Align text menu in Visio for the web left alignment selected.

Top of Page 

Use accessible shape color

Choose an accessible shape color to make your diagram inclusive for everyone. For people with low vision and colorblindness it is important that you use a color contrast between the text in the shape and the shape background to distinguish outlines, borders, edges, and details. Shape color that is too close to the text color can be hard to read.

Make sure you don’t use color alone to convey meaning. Create text that duplicates the meaning of the color or other sensory characteristics. For example, consider using a green checkmark to indicate success and a red X to indicate failure, instead of green and red shading.

For the step-by-step instructions on how to change the shape color, go to Format a shape in Visio.

Top of Page

Test accessibility with a screen reader 

When your diagram is ready and you've run the Accessibility Checker to make sure it is inclusive, you can try navigating the diagram using a screen reader, for example, Narrator. Narrator comes with Windows, so no need to install anything. This is one additional way to spot issues in the navigation order, for example.

  1. Start the screen reader. For example, to start Narrator, press Ctrl+Windows logo key+Enter.

  2. Press Esc once. The focus, the blue rectangle, moves to the diagram.

  3. Press the Tab key to navigate the elements in your diagram and fix the navigation order if needed.

  4. Close the screen reader. For example, to exit Narrator, press Ctrl+Windows logo key+Enter.

Top of Page

See also

Rules for the Accessibility Checker

Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities

Make your Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities

Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities

Make your Outlook email accessible to people with disabilities

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

Need more help?

Join the discussion
Ask the community
Get support
Contact Us

Was this information helpful?

What affected your experience?

Thank you for your feedback!

×