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Writing and Designing for Accessibility

Why is writing and designing for accessibility important?

Firstly, document accessibility allows all people to access and have the opportunity to understand the information found in documents. Writing and designing for accessibility benefits not only individuals with permanent or temporary visual, hearing, cognitive, or motor impairments but also those where English is a second language or where literacy levels are low.

As we say, the world is not split into people with 20/20 vision and people who use screen readers – there is a nearly infinite spectrum in the middle that most people vary along throughout their lives.

As such, we need to ensure that the people who view the documents that you produce can see the content. Ensuring sufficient colour contrast, for example, and not having to rely on colour to tell your story, are two big ways of improving visual accessibility. But, there is so much more.

Who does it help?

We want to empower the digital content creators to design and write for accessibility. So if you are a:

  • Graphic Designer
  • Branding specialist
  • Writer
  • Corporate Video producer

Or anyone who is responsible for building an accessible brand, writing, or laying out content that will need to be read and understood by everyone, we want to help you.

Together we can make a difference. 

What are the legal requirements?

As content creators, we are all responsible for ensuring that the material we produce meet the accessibility standards in the countries the digital documents will be seen.  So, if you put them onto the web, they would need to be accessible to everyone. 

But there are more elements to consider when creating the document, and even terms that are used depending on the type of document it is. Here is a start for things to consider when designing or writing for accessibility to help you learn.

1. Clarity of information

The biggest, boldest, highest contrast, easiest to navigate content doesn’t mean anything if what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. If you take the time to say something, you want as many people as possible to engage with what you say.

2. Use inclusive language

This is language that encourages you to avoid expressions that can be deemed as sexist, racist, prejudiced, biased, or denigrating to a particular ethnicity or a group of people.

3. Use proper headings (the difference between styles / tags)

PDF documents have tags, Word documents have styles, other documents may have roles or a combination of all of them – these are the instructions that tell a computer how to understand and navigate the content.

Setting up your document right from the start is all part of what can make accessibility easy to rollout as a content creator.

4. Multiple ways of navigating

People have more choices than ever before in how they consume content, so why would you make your content limit their options? Not everyone can scroll down a page with ease, so we want to make sure there are different ways for people to find the information they want and move from place to place. This also means that the places they want to go are clear to them – clicking here doesn’t work if you don’t know where here is!

5. Colour alone should not be used to represent or convey information

Using colour on it’s own to convey information can be difficult for people who are colorblind or have low vision. To make sure that everyone can understand what is being conveyed, it is important to use text or symbols in addition to colour.

6. Always ensure there is enough colour contrast between text and the background

High contrast between text and background is important for people with low vision or colour blindness to read the content. Use contrasting colours to ensure legibility and accessibility for all users. There are free checkers available that you can use which will give you a rating – indicating if there is enough contrast or not.

7. Use instructions and labels within form fields

Forms should include clear instructions and labels to guide users through the process. Providing descriptive labels for form fields helps screen reader users navigate the form more easily. For example, a label on a form field could read – 'enter your date of birth in mm/dd/yyyy format' as the tool tip.

8. Write meaningful alternative text for images and graphics

Alternative text, also known as alt text, provides a description of images or other non-text content that will be read out by screen readers. Writing meaningful and descriptive alt text helps people with low vision understand the content and context of the visual elements used in the document.

9. Consider the space between sentences and paragraphs

Proper spacing between sentences and paragraphs makes the text easier to read and comprehend. People with cognitive disabilities or low vision will benefit from consistent spacing to follow the content more easily.

10. Use accessible font format and colour

Did you know there is a range of accessible font formats and colours all aimed at making the content legible for everyone. Avoid using fonts that are difficult to read and ensure that the colours used meet the contrast guidelines.

11. Use table headers

Tables should include headers that clearly identify the content in each column and row. Screen readers can use table headers to help users navigate through the table more easily.

How can I learn more?

Get in contact with us. We can help you either design your brand for accessibility or help you update it. We can also audit your current material and help you to understand the small changes you can make to make it more accessible. 

We are also running online courses about how to write and design for accessibility. Get in touch to find out more. 

Our track record

We have been working in the accessibility space since 2010 and a lot of the time we are there at the end to make the document accessible before it is published online. The problem is the document has NOT been created with accessibility in mind. If we only simply remediated it, it still would not be accessible. 

Most of the time it is just an oversight as there is a lack of knowledge in+ how to write and design for accessibility. That is why we work with you to ensure what you are writing or designing is done right.  After all, knowledge is power right?

That is why our design arm – known as Brio Group has taken the lead on designing content for our clients for many years as we understand accessibility and can help you to also understand it.  

It's not just us

We want you to be a part of our journey, and we can’t make a difference without you.
Any questions you have or projects you want to work on together, don’t hesitate to contact us.