This is my third blog post related to accessibility. If you’re unsure why you should embrace accessibility while you’re doing your business, I strongly recommend you to start with my first article in accessibility series. I believe that you find social, economic, moral, and, most importantly, legal reasons on why you should care about accessibility. If you’re already convinced, but you don’t know where and how to start, it may be a good start to read the second post. It was about web accessibility on which we have a strong and comprehensive standard approved and referenced by many national and international authorities. That is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.
This time I will touch on document accessibility and try to share some tips for creating and preparing accessible documents. To develop accessible documents, please keep in your mind this basic principle of document creation:
“While creating and delivering a document, consider as many different human situations as possible.”
- Decrease verbiage, increase intelligibility
The main motivation behind creating a document is to transmit meaning. It’s so crucial to choose shorter and uncomplicated sentences with simple and easy to understand words.
- Use Closed-captioned media
If your document has an audio or video content embedded, make sure it’s closed-captioned for the people who don’t or can’t use hearing.
- Add alternative text to all visual content
Your content may consist of images, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, graphics, attached objects, and videos. Alternative texts help people who don’t use the screen to understand the important points in pictures and other images. Briefly describe the picture in the alternative text and mention the existence and purpose of the image.
- Think your eyes are busy, or you’re the listener of your document
Using text in images as the only way to convey important information. If you need to use an image with text inside, repeat the same text in the document.
- Add meaningful hypertext and Screen Tips for the links
People using screen readers sometimes scan the list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the target. For example, instead of using the “Click Here” text in the link, type the entire title of the target page. You can also add Screen Tips that appear when you hover your cursor over text or a picture with a hyperlink.
- Make sure not to use colors as the only way to transmit information
Visually impaired people and color blinds might miss the meaning conveyed only with certain colors. Instead of colors, you can use an alphanumeric character for each group of information.
- Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors
If your document has a high level of contrast between its text and its background, more people can see and understand the content without difficulty.
- Use built-in headings and styles
Use a logical heading and built-in formatting tools to maintain tab order and make it easy for screen readers to read your documents. For example, place the headings in a predefined logical order. Instead of Heading-3, Heading-1, and Heading-2, use the Heading-1, Heading-2, and Heading-3 order. Organize the information in your documents into small pieces. Ideally, each title should consist of only a few paragraphs.
- Use a simple table structure and specify the column header
Screen readers count the table cells to determine their location in the table. If the table is nested in another table, or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader misses the number and cannot provide useful information about the table after that point. Empty cells in the table can also cause people who use screen readers to think that nothing else is left in the table. Screen readers also use headers to identify rows and columns.
If you use Microsoft Word to create your documents, you can check this out for further details on how to make documents accessible. Even better, if you have the last version of Microsoft Office installed on your machine, you can always benefit the “Accessibility Checker” utility to see the issues with your document that might cause a problem for people with disabilities. To learn more about this feature, you can visit the page on the rules for the Accessibility Checker.
Author: Çağrı Doğan, Accessible Products Consultant, Sestek