Accessibility

Applicable to any print or digital materials including flyers, webpages, posters, in Word, OpenOffice, PDF, HTML formats.

When creating content, there are a few basic steps that should be followed in order to assure your content is accessible. The core steps needed for accessibility are the same regardless of format or medium you are working in.

Document Headings

A uniform heading structure is often the most important accessibility consideration. Sighted users often scroll the page quickly and look for big, bold text (headings) to get an idea of its structure and content. Screen reader and other assistive technology users also have the ability to navigate documents by heading structure, assuming Heading styles (rather than formatting text to look like headings) are used.

Use heading styles to set your heading text. Pages should be structured in a hierarchical manner:

  • Heading 1 is usually a page title or a main content heading. It is the most important heading, and there is generally just one.
  • Heading 2 is usually a major section heading.
  • Heading 3 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 2.
  • Heading 4 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 3, and so on, ending with Heading 6.

Alternative Text for Images (Alt-Text)

Add alternative text (or alt-text) to images. Alternative text is needed to provide a non-visual means of representing the content or function of an image. Alternative text should be:

  • Accurate and equivalent—present the same content or function as the image
  • Succinct—no more than a few words are necessary; rarely a short sentence or two may be appropriate
  • NOT be redundant—do not provide information that is in the surrounding text
  • NOT use descriptive phrases—screen reading software identifies images, so do not use phrases such as "image of..." or "graphic of..."

If an image is decorative and does not add to the context of the content, then add a blank space (MS Word) or mark the image as decorative (in PDF).

Links

Follow these principles to create accessible links:

  • Use descriptive link text that does not rely on context from the surrounding text.
    • Example of descriptive text: "Learn more about LWTech", "Check out the Veterans Center webpage", etc. 
    • Example of non-descriptive text is "click here", "learn more"," go here", "visit this site/page here", etc.
  • Keep the amount of text in the link to a minimum.
  • For print materials, use short URLs (contact Marketing if you need one made)
  • Remove all prefixes such as http://, https://, www.; avoid using the full URL

Lists

Lists and columns add important hierarchical structure to a document. Use lists to provide the document structure needed for assistive technology users.

There are two types of lists: ordered and unordered.

  • Ordered or numbered lists are used to present a group of items (words, phrases, sentences) that follow a sequence.
  • Unordered bullet lists are used for a group of items without a sequence.

Tables

The purpose of tables is to present data information in a grid, or matrix, and to have columns or rows that show the meaning of the information in the grid. Sighted users scan a table to make associations between data in the table and their appropriate row and/or column headers. Screen reader users make these same associations with tables.

You can add properties to documents so that column headers (headers in the first row of the table) are identified by a screen reader. All tables should follow the guidelines for proper data display:

  • Header row with appropriate header text coinciding with each column
  • Table alt-text and table summary
  • No merged cells

Tables should NEVER be used to for content layout (e.g. creating multi-columns such as in PDF forms). Screen reader users cannot make sense of content in these tables. In such instances, either a single column should be used, or a column feature in Word or use CSS for web documents to create grid columns.

Additional Principles

  • Ensure that font size is sufficiently large—generally a minimum of 11 points for print, word, and PDF documents, 14px for web documents. Note the LWTech website paragraph text is 15px.
  • Provide sufficient contrast between text colors and background colors. You can check for contrast using the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker Online Tool.
  • Do no skip lines; create blank spaces; tab across the same line. Instead use the paragraph line space feature in Word, or margin or padding styles in HTML.
  • Use simple language.
  • Do not use color as the ONLY way to convey content.
  • Be careful with the use of watermarks. They can impact readability and create low contrast.
  • Provide a table of contents for long documents.
  • Use built in accessibility checkers in Word, PowerPoint, Acrobat to check your documents. But DO NOT entirely rely on these, as they are not perfect and will not check all errors.

Additional Accessibility Resources