Creating accessible text documents

Published December 1, 2022

Text documents are a great way to consolidate information in one place. Most staff members probably need to reference internal reports, training guides, and other essential documents at some point.

With that in mind, you want to be sure that everyone who may use a document has adequate access to it. This includes ensuring it’s accessible for those with low to no vision using screen readers. 

If you’re making an internal document and assume you don’t have someone with a disability on your staff, remember that employees are not legally required to disclose that information. So always keep that in mind when creating any kind of document.

Here are some ways to ensure your text documents are accessible.

Make sure text is easy to read

First and foremost, choose a ‘sans-serif’ font that doesn’t have too much flair. Good choices include Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana. Digital designers often use these fonts because of their clarity and wide availability.

Be sure to choose size 12 or higher for those with low vision who may need a larger font to be able to see. 

Use headings 

This is a great way to break up points and sections in your document for all readers, especially those using screen readers. 

Be sure to use “Heading 1” (title or main topic) or “Heading 2” (beginning of new sections) when choosing your font type so it can be read correctly. 

Make lists

Another great formatting technique is to use bullet points or numbers to break up content. This helps make complex or heavily detailed content easier to read and digest. It is also great for those using screen readers. Bullets and numbers help readers understand where the list starts and ends, how many items or points are included, and which item they are on.

Include alternative text (alt text)

If you’re using images, it’s mandatory to include alt text. Alt text describes images to readers who are unable to see them. Alt text creates a code that is readable by screen readers and other assistive technology. It’s pivotal for ensuring that readers who are blind, have other visual impairments, or have physical or cognitive disabilities still get the full context of the content in the document. 

Alt text should be simple, concise, and focused on conveying essential information.

Label links clearly

Embedded links are often used to direct readers to additional information or next steps. Instead of using vague language like “click here,” calls-to-action and phrases that let the reader know where the link goes provide more clarity. 

Good link text makes sense as an independent sentence or phrase. 

Avoid relying on color to convey meaning

It’s common to use color to organize information, but it shouldn’t be the only way you do this. Those who are blind, have low vision, or are color blind may not know you are using different colors and may miss out on their meaning. 

About 8% of all men and 0.5% of all women have color blindness (color vision deficiency). This means the chances that someone using your document is colorblind are very high.

As mentioned above, using headings is the best way to format documents and break up topics and points. 

Use an accessibility checker

Software programs like Word have built-in accessibility-checking features that will flag any accessibility-related inconsistencies in your document with an explanation of the issues and how to fix them.  

There are also color–blind simulators, which can be helpful when creating graphics, presentations, logos, and other content.

Keeping accessibility in mind when creating guides, reference sheets, or even general documents will ensure all readers understand the content. So the next time you create a text document, please remember these tips to make sure that you and your business consider the needs of all. 

Event: Accessible Mobile Apps and Kiosks

Join us on Tuesday, August 22nd at 1 PM ET for our next event on Accessible Mobile Apps and Kiosks.  We need to ensure self-service is accessible to everyone.

The self-service trend for customers through mobile apps and kiosks has exploded in recent years. Identify gaps in your processes that may prevent all customers from utilizing these tools. Explore how to provide an accessible user experience for all when designing, developing, and deploying mobile apps and kiosks.

Register for this free, online event here.

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Did you miss our Design, Develop and Deploy for Accessibility series? Not to worry.  It is now available on demand for you to catch on your own time. Grab the videos, transcripts, and supporting materials by clicking this link.


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