#61 Creating Accessible Information

In a world where we rely so heavily on electronic information, it’s important to consider how we are ensuring that all our documents are fully accessible, so that all people have the opportunity to be fully informed.

Screen readers and zoom text software are commonly used not only by those who are blind or who have low vision, but also by those with learning access needs such as dyslexia. In New Zealand, there could be anywhere between 40,000 and 160,000 people using screen readers to access documents, websites and other electronic information so it is vital that we all have a basic understanding of how to create accessible information!

The Be. team in the officeThe Be. team were fortunate to have Tom and Erin from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind come in to show us a few handy tips and tricks around creating accessible information, from Word documents, to PDFs, websites and excel spreadsheets.

There are so many easy ways to ensure documents are accessible, and it just takes a little bit of training to make it second nature! Here are a few highlights of the things we learnt.

1. Accessibility checklists and guidelines are like the Warrant of Fitness of accessibility – they ensure a minimum standard but they might not be best practice, so it’s best to consult the experts on how you could be doing things better!
2. Keep fonts plain, such as Arial or Verdana.
3. Avoid large amounts of Italics or underlining.
4. Block capitals make it difficult for people with low vision to read the document as they rely on seeing the shapes of words.
5. Check your colour contrast with a Colour Contrast Analyser like this one.
6. Use ‘styles’ when formatting Word documents – they are the most accessible.
7. Images – always add alt text and ensure that they’re ‘in line’ with text in a document otherwise a screen reader won’t be able to pick them up.
8.Text boxes can’t be read by screen readers so avoid them!
9. Align things to the left and always start information in the top left corner. It’s not only good for screen readers and those with low vision, but it’s the most logical and intuitive layout for all people.

But most importantly, we learnt:

10. Accessibility is not a checklist; it’s a mindset.

Kim and Megan listening intentlyWe would definitely encourage you to undertake a similar session in your business or organisation, so feel free to contact the team at Be. or your local Be. Coach to arrange a tailored session for you and your work colleagues.  We can set you up with the right individuals from  the RNZFB depending on your needs. Plus, they have so much more knowledge than we can impart here in only 10 top tips!