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Home > External Apps > Ally > Easy Fix #4: Document Headings | 2024
Easy Fix #4: Document Headings | 2024
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Need some simple fixes to improve accessibility? The Office of Digital Learning has a series of tips for making course content more accessible. See the full series:

Easy Fix #1 - Image descriptions

Easy Fix #2 - Optimum color contrast

Easy Fix #3 - Descriptive document titles

Easy Fix #4 - Document headings

Easy Fix #5 - Converting Microsoft Word files to PDF

The proper use of heading styles is an easy way to improve the accessibility of course content. Headings help readers quickly scan sections of text and comprehend how content is organized. Students using assistive technology, like screen readers, depend on headings to navigate content. A common accessibility mistake is to style headings by adjusting the font size or applying boldface type, but screen readers don’t detect these variations as headings. For students with visual impairments, headings should always be applied using a program’s built-in heading styles. We explain how in the steps below.

How to Add Headings in Documents

First, identify documents in your course site that have been flagged by Ally as missing headings: Open your Ally Course Report, scan the list of accessibility issues, and locate content labeled “The document does not have any headings.”

Click on the content affected, and Ally will provide a list of individual files that need attention.

Identify the Microsoft Word documents that do not have headings. Though you’ll ultimately want to address other types of files like PowerPoint slides, Word documents are the easiest place to start. When you’re ready to take on others, Ally will help you through those too.

To add headings to a Word document, follow the step-by-step instructions in the Ally instructor feedback panel:

  1. Select How to add headings.
  2. Open your original document.
  3. Click on Word for Microsoft Office. Ally will provide instructions for adding heading styles in your file.
  4. Within your Word document, select the text you want to be your heading.
  5. Go to the Home tab, and select the desired heading level from the Styles group.

Heading Best Practices

When adding headings, be mindful of the following best practices:

Follow a logical hierarchy.

When headings aren’t in order by level (eg, 1, then 2, then 3), it creates unnecessary confusion for students trying to navigate content with a screen reader. Always begin with a level-1 heading and proceed in rank order from there.

Don’t overuse headings.

Unless it’s a very long document, three levels of headings are usually sufficient. Avoid using more than six.

Never apply text styles in place of a heading style.

Always style headings by using the built-in styles (or editing the built-in styles to suit your taste). 

New to Ally?

The Office of Digital Learning enabled the course accessibility tool Ally in all Canvas courses and organizational sites in December 2020. Ally simplifies the process of converting course materials into formats all students can access. Visit the Ally Resource Guide for access to Ally support resources, including webinars and one-on-one consultations. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions. Thank you for all you do to foster inclusive learning at FSU.



Questions? Visit us on the web at, sign up for our newsletter, call 850-644-8004 Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, or submit a ticket to ODL Technical Support.










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