Our previous accessibility blog post explored some of the barriers that people face when they read online content. Barriers that stop people from being able to use the content.
Creating clear and accessible content has always been important. It means everyone can use and understand it.
However, as more and more services move online, it’s even more important that we reduce these barriers. It’s even more important to create clear and accessible content.
Here are seven things every content professional needs to do to make their content accessible.
1) Use short sentences and paragraphs
Big blocks of text are hard to scan and hard to read. Long sentences take a longer time to process.
The longer your sentences, or paragraphs, the more likely it is that someone will miss important information.
Instead use short sentences. Try to aim for two to three sentences in a paragraph.
2) Use headings
Headings are very useful. They break up your content and make it easier for people to understand it.
At a glance, people can see what your content is about. They’ll be able to identify what information they need to read. They’re much more likely to read the content if they can see useful headings.
3) Structure your headings
You must structure your headings. This means giving your heading a level. Do this in T4 (our CMS), WordPress, or Word and Powerpoint by selecting either “Heading 1″ “Heading 2″ “Heading 3″ or “Heading 4″.
Do not use bold, or increase the size of your text. If you do this, people using assistive technology won’t know you are using headings at all. They will lose out.
4) Plain English your text
Use simple words. Try to avoid jargon and technical words. This is not dumbing down your content.
Don’t assume that as your audience are University level, they can easily understand your content. Your audience may have dyslexia, or not have English as a first language.
By using simple language you are helping everyone to engage with your content.
5) Use meaningful link text
Do not use “Click here” or “Find out more” or “Read more” or similar phrases for link text.
Assistive technology often reads out link text on its own, without the surrounding text. People using this technology will not know what the link is about, or why they should click it. This means they might miss important information.
Instead, use meaningful link text. If you are linking to mental health advice, use the words “mental health advice” not “click here” for advice.
Using meaningful link text will help everyone.
6) Avoid words in images
Assistive technology will not recognise words in images. This means lots of people will miss your message.
Avoid putting words in images. If you must, then make sure you include this text elsewhere. If there are only a few words in the image, you can use the alternative text. You can also provide the same words on to the page itself.
Avoid using images that contain a lot of text. Put the same words on the page itself.
If you’re using a graph, try to explain what it is saying in words, either as an alternative text or on the page itself.
7) Avoid PDFs
Many people who use assistive technology have had bad experiences with PDFs. Often PDFs are not ‘marked-up’ in a way that allows assistive technology to read them. This means these people will miss out on content in PDFs.
Put your content in another format, for example, an HTML webpage. If you do have to create a one, try and make your PDF as accessible as possible.
If you’re interested in finding out more about accessibility and the importance of accessible content these are great:
Charlotte is a digital officer in the digital comms team.