Day 2 - Making documents accessible

Whether it’s a report, Powerpoint presentation, poster, or information leaflet, follow these five simple design tips to make your documents accessible.

 


1. Use styles to identify headings

Heading 1
Heading 2
Heading 3
Heading 4
Screenshot of Styles Toolbar in MS Word    MS Word Navigation Pane, which includes document headings for easy navigation

Using Headings and Styles throughout a document automatically creates a searchable document with easy navigation. Screen readers used by the blind and partially-sighted use these headings to create chaptered sound files, which are much easier to search and edit. 

2. Choose an accessible font

Text clarity is important for all users, however if you having a learning difference or disability it is vital to accessing the resource.  When deciding on a font style, choose a clear font with space around each character letter with no flicks or tails on the letters. These are much easier to read for many people, but particularly those with sight problems. 

There are many accessible Sans Serif fonts that can be used, below are a few examples.

Examples of three accessible fonts: Calibri, Arial, Verdena

Below are a few examples of inaccessible Serif fonts, which should be avoided:
Examples of three inaccessible fonts: Bradley Hand ITC, Algerian, Times New Roman

The examples below show how use of Sans Serif fonts can help maintain clarity even for those users who find text harder to access:

Dyslexic User Perspective
Example of Dyslexic user viewing text, the letters are mixed up and is difficult to read

Sight Impaired User perspective

Example of sight impaired user viewing a webpage which is blurry and difficult to read


3. Use left alignment and bigger spaces between lines of text

Left aligning text reduces eye movements and enables you to read the text easily. It is particularly helpful for those with partial sight, or those who use a keyboard (rather than a keyboard and mouse) to navigate the text.

Screenshot of MS Word toolbar for text Alignment   Screenshot of Line spacing toolbar in MS Word

1.5 spacing or higher increases the space around text making it much easier for those with sight problems to view. Breaking up dense blocks of text in this way can also make information less overwhelming and easier to read for those with learning differences affecting reading and writing, such as dyslexia.

4. Use accessible ways of highlighting text

Green Tick in a green circle depicting a correct example. Red Tick in a red circle depicting an incorrect example

5. Choose accessible backgrounds and font colours

The choice of background and font colour can have a marked effect on how clearly text can be seen. The columns below show some examples of background colour and font colour combinations.

Green Tick in a green circle depicting a correct example, Red Tick in Red Circle showing incorrect example
Table showing Column A: Poor contrast examples which are difficult to read. Column B: Good contrast of dark text on a light background, easy to read and good for many users. Column C: Good contrast, showing light text on a dark background which is high contrast and easy to read for many users

Column A shows poor contrast between the background and font colours. This makes the text difficult to read. Some of the colours chosen clash, creating an uncomfortable viewing experience for all viewers. It is also worth noting that 1 in 100 men and 1 in 300 women are red/green colour blind, meaning that many people cannot read red and green together. Colours to avoid, particularly together are red, green and often yellow. 

Column B shows good contrast between dark text and the light background. This combination supports the widest group of users. It is easy on the eye, and clear to read for those with a learning difference affecting sensory processing (such as dyslexia or autism).  Note that a pale colour is chosen rather than white, as the stark contrast between black and white can be perceived as harsh and strain the eyes.

Column C shows good contrast between light text on a dark background. This is accessible and most legible for those with a sight impairment.  It is often used in banners to grab attention but some users can find it overwhelming when reading larger amounts of text, and much prefer the pastel background. You may want to consider using these combinations of light text on a dark background sparingly, depending on your intended audience. 


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