Veronica With Four Eyes

Creating Take-Away Documents With Microsoft Office Sway

Whenever I speak at conferences or create resources for student organizations on Campus, I like to use Microsoft Office Sway for creating take-away documents. While some people are confused at first as to why I would choose to use Sway, they instantly understand why I love using it so much once they open the document and see all of the information they need in a well-organized and accessible document that can be accessed from anywhere. Here are my tips for creating take-away documents with Microsoft Office Sway, and how to make awesome resources.

What is Microsoft Office Sway?

Microsoft Office Sway is a free web app that allows users to create their own simple webpages and presentations with text, images, widgets, file attachments, and more. It’s a great substitute for PowerPoint or handouts, and it’s by far my favorite Microsoft Office application. I have been able to use it for lots of interesting projects over the years, including a cookbook, a formula sheet, and several different class presentations- all of which have earned a 100%.

As of 2020, premium features for Sway are now included in Microsoft 365/Office 365 subscriptions so that users can add even more content to their documents (more information is linked below). However, for a majority of take-away documents, the free version of Sway is more than enough.

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Why I use Sway in general

Here are some of the many reasons I love Sway, and why I chose to use it to create take-away documents:

IT CAN BE USED ON ANY DEVICE

Sway can be accessed on any internet-enabled device, which includes tablets, phones, computers, and similar. There are many users who prefer to read information off of tablets or phones over their computer, which can all have varying display sizes. Sway scales to all display sizes, so users don’t have to worry about information running off the page.

IT’S ACCESSIBLE WITH SCREEN READERS

Sway has this awesome feature called accessibility view which simplifies the display of the page so it can be used with screen reading and screen magnification technology. Some users may feel more comfortable using a mobile screen reader such as TalkBack or VoiceOver instead of using their computer, and I wanted to use a program that would be compatible across various devices and accessibility settings.

IT’S REALLY EASY TO CREATE

If someone can click three buttons, they can create a Sway, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to turn a traditional worksheet into a digital Sway document. While some tasks may require more time than others, Microsoft Office Sway makes it easy to add information and create beautifully organized documents.

IT HAS MORE OPTIONS THAN TRADITIONAL WORD PROCESSORS

Users can add a variety of different types of content to their Sway that they would not be able to add to a traditional document, such as audio files. These additional content types can help to bring documents to life and allow users to include recordings and other helpful information.

NO NEED TO LOG-IN OR DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

While users will need to have a free Microsoft account to create a Sway, they can share the finished link with anyone regardless of if they have a Microsoft account or not. They also will not need to download any special software- a Sway can be accessed directly from the web browser just like any other website.

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Why I use Sway for creating takeaway documents

I’ve mentioned a lot of great reasons to use Sway already, but why do I specifically use it for take-away documents when a lot of audiences might not know what it is? Here are some of the reasons why:

Users can access it during a talk/meeting

It can be difficult to read a physical document while in a meeting, especially if the document is not in an accessible format. Instead of having people flip through a document, I share a link at the beginning so that users can follow along with their own devices.

It can easily be shared with others

Sway documents are only visible to people who have the links, but users can easily share the links with others who need the information and bookmark them for later. Of course, if creators want to make sure that links cannot be shared outside of their organization or intended audience, they can configure this in the Sharing section for their Sway.

I can update it after the fact

After the talk/meeting, it’s helpful to include additional resources that may have been mentioned or recordings of what was said. I can update my Sway from my account and the changes will automatically refresh for everyone with the link.

I can edit with co-presenters

When working on a document, I can share an edit link with other users and they can make changes and add content alongside me, so we can easily collaborate. Prior to sharing the link with public audiences, I will generate a new link that is view-only so that others can’t make changes and the previous edit link is unusable.

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How I structure documents

One of the foundations of an accessible assignment is proper heading structure, and Microsoft Office Sway makes this easy for users. Users can insert a heading by clicking the plus icon underneath a Sway card (section) and selecting the “Text” tab. Before inserting any additional headings, I recommend typing the talk/meeting title and date in the “Title” box.

Here is how I recommend using each of the headings:

HEADING 1

Different from the Title heading, I use Heading 1 to label sections, such as my introduction, contact information, and other top-level content. Think of Heading 1 content as the headings/title boxes of PowerPoint slides.

HEADING 2

I type out subsections of Heading 1 information with Heading 2, dividing the top information into smaller points. For example, if my Heading 1 had the title “What to know about Disability Services,” my Heading 2 titles might include:

  • Getting a Disability Services File
  • Common accommodations for low vision
  • Working with assistive technology specialists
  • On-campus disability transportation

HEADING 3

While I don’t use Heading 3 a lot when I’m creating Sway documents, it is helpful to have if I have to break up a Heading 2 section even further. I’ll also use Heading 3 labels underneath Heading 2 content to provide information about multimedia content, such as the title of a video or information about an audio recording.

REGULAR TEXT

Underneath Heading 2 or Heading 3, I will add additional text that is otherwise not included in a heading. This can be in the form of questions, further instructions, explanations, or other information.

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My favorite designs for Sway

When creating a take-away document in Microsoft Office Sway, I have a few design elements that I use whenever possible that are optimized for users with low vision. These include:

  • Vertical scrolling
  • Style 4 for content, which features colored bars across Heading 1 content and no background graphics
  • Subtle animation emphasis
  • Large text size
  • Arial Nova font for headings and body

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Adding audio/video recordings of sessions

As mentioned, users can insert audio and video recordings of sessions and other content into their Sway document, either from their device or from a web source. I prefer to embed videos from YouTube whenever possible so that the Sway loads a bit faster and allows users to access captions/transcripts that are connected to YouTube videos.

To add video files to Sway:

  1. Click on the plus icon at the bottom of a Sway card
  2. Select the “Media” tab
  3. Select the “Video” option

From there, users can add a link to a video, upload from their device, or search on YouTube. Users can also upload .vtt caption files for their videos within the Details menu after the video has been uploaded.

To add audio files to Sway:

  1. Click on the plus icon at the bottom of a Sway card
  2. Select the “Media” tab
  3. Select the “Audio” option

From there, users can either record audio directly within the Sway by selecting the “Record” button on the card, or selecting the option to add an existing audio file. Users can also upload .vtt caption files for their audio files within the Details menu after the file has been uploaded.

Including transcripts and other documents

For users who want to include transcripts or other documents in their take-away document, Sway can embed a document so that users can read/download it within the Sway document, or convert the document to be readable in Sway, as if it was part of the document. Users can embed several different file types, including Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoints, and more.

To add additional documents to a Sway:

  1. Click on the plus icon at the bottom of a Sway card
  2. Select the “Suggested” tab (which is the first tab)
  3. Select the “Upload” option
  4. Once the document is uploaded, select “Embed” to have the document displayed in its original formatting, or “Import” to have it become part of the Sway.

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Including images and text

Microsoft Office Sway makes it easy to insert images and add alt text/image descriptions that can be read out loud by screen readers. While some alt text can be automatically generated, it’s easier to type it out whenever possible to ensure accuracy.

TO INSERT AN IMAGE INTO SWAY:

  1. Click on the plus icon at the bottom of a Sway card
  2. Select the “Media” tab
  3. Select the “Image” option
  4. Select the source for an image from the drop-down menu- users can search the web, upload from OneDrive, or upload from their device

TO ADD ALT TEXT TO AN IMAGE IN SWAY:

  1. On the image card, select the “Details” button
  2. Scroll to the section for Alt Text
  3. Type in a description of the image that could be understood by someone who isn’t able to see the image
  4. Tap outside of the card to close the menu

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Sharing Sways with others

After finalizing the design of a Sway, users can click the “Share” button and copy/paste a link to their Sway that can be shared just like any other web link. It can be emailed, posted to a class website, posted on social media- anywhere a link can normally be shared. While Sway documents do not show up in search engine results, they are visible to anyone who has the link. Users can also share Sways within their organization, which would require users to log in- for example, Sway documents that are created with my college account are only visible to other students/staff at my college.

Final thoughts

I love using Microsoft Office Sway to create take-away documents, and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from attendees about how organized my documents are and how they can easily be shared with others. I hope this post is helpful for others who want to make their own accessible handouts!

Creating Take-Away Documents With Microsoft Office Sway. How to create organized, awesome and accessible take away documents for talks and presentations using the free Microsoft Office Sway application



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