7 Steps to Make Your Content More Accessible
When publishing content — be it websites, documents, or marketing materials — it’s ideal not only to produce a polished-looking final product but to also ensure your content is accessible to as many people as possible.
But, what does accessibility really mean? Creating accessible content ensures that whatever you’re publishing is easy to read, understand, translate, and describe for as many people as possible. This includes those in edge cases as well as those living with visual impairment, dyslexia, learning difficulties, and circumstances that necessitate screen reading software.
While government agencies and adjacent industries, like hospitals and schools, are required by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to comply with accessibility laws and regulations, following guidelines such as W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines can be beneficial for all businesses and organizations — including yours.
So, what steps can you take to make your content more accessible? Read on to find out.
7 Steps to Make Your Content More Accessible
In order to make your content accessible, you’ll want to think beyond just making your content aesthetically pleasing and high contrast (although that matters, too). If you’re looking to align specifically with the laws and regulations in your area, your web content may require 508 remediation, which means ensuring your electronic content fits the specifically required guidelines for accessibility.
If you’re taking accessibility more seriously and are looking for changes you can make right now, we can help! Here are seven steps you can take to make your electronic content as accessible as possible.
1 – Use proper headings
Section headings are the proverbial scaffolding of your web content. Use proper headings to organize your sections, such as Heading 1, 2, and 3, rather than manually adjusting text size. In Google Docs and Microsoft Word, you can find headings under Styles.
Properly-formatted headings enable screen readers to identify the accurate hierarchy of the information, enable listeners to identify sections, and allow your broader audience to efficiently navigate your document.
It’s best to avoid using tables in your content, but if you must, use a simple table structure and specify column header information.
2 – Use Alt Text with visuals
Using Alternative (Alt) Text helps those with visual impairments understand the information conveyed through images and icons. When creating alt text, keep it short and sweet; don’t worry about decorative imagery that doesn’t have a purpose, just make sure the context of the image within the content is clearly communicated.
For alt text on icons, make sure it describes what the icon is intended to communicate rather than the visual details of the icon or button. For example, alt text for a Facebook icon should read “Visit our Facebook page,” rather than descriptors like, “Logo with a blue F.”
To learn more about using alt text for accessibility compliance, Harvard University has an article on the topic that you can view here.
3 – Write in plain language
To create content that’s easy to understand, the language you use is just as important as the structure of it. Your audience must be able to grasp your content the first time it’s heard or read. To achieve this goal, write in a clear, simple, conversational style with short sentences.
Here are some things to avoid to keep your language easy to understand:
- Complex language
- Unnecessary words
Bullet points can also be helpful for conveying information.
4 – Choose your font and text carefully
Font and text size can go a long way toward creating content that’s in line with accessibility compliance standards.
While there are no definitive rules about font selection, high-contrast, sans-serif fonts for your text like Helvetica, Arial, or Verdana are often preferred for their legibility.
It’s best to avoid fonts with very thin parts, or “lightweight” fonts since fonts with higher weights are generally easier to read. But you should also avoid excessively bold, “heavyweight” fonts because the contrast lines of bold fonts become hard to read when they are too thick. Use bold sparingly, and only use it to emphasize important information.
Don’t forget the size of your font in these decisions since no one wants to squint at their screen. 12-point fonts or higher are readable by most, but it’s helpful to have large print versions of text available as well. Large-point fonts are defined as 16-point Arial or higher.
When writing, be sure to avoid using continuous all-caps letters or emojis, because this can be hard to read for some and laborious for screen readers to relay.
It’s also important to not rely on text color to convey meaning, as text color may be “lost in translation” for people with color blindness or color visual impairment.
5 – Use easy-to-read colors with high contrast
To adhere to 508 compliance requirements or just be more accessible for those reading your content, be sure to use high-contrast colors for text and designs.
For those with color vision impairment, or people who are fully colorblind, the ability to perceive different colors depends on the contrast ratio between two colors.
To keep your color choices in line with ADA accessibility compliance, a best practice for your colors is to have a 4:5:1 ratio for text and interactive elements.
6 – Use Accessibility Checker when working in Microsoft Word
If you’re creating content in Microsoft Word, it has a feature that you can use to get tips to make your content more accessible called the Accessibility Checker.
To use this feature in Word:
- Click the ‘Review’ tab in the Menu bar
- Click the ‘Check Accessibility’ button
This will then point out any accessibility issues you may have in your document and guide you through fixing the problems.
7 – Make sure your content is PDF-convertible
Another way to make your content accessible is to make sure it can be converted into PDF format.
When converting a document into PDF format, you’ll need to ensure it will maintain its readability, rather than turning it into a flat image.
If you’re using Microsoft Word, make sure you select the following options in the PDF creation settings:
- Enable tagged PDF
- Create bookmarks using Word headings
Creating tagged PDFs is important for accessibility compliance, since it keeps all document structure settings, like headings and alt text, intact in a PDF document.
Not sure where to start? 508 remediation can help.
If you want to make your existing or new content more accessible, you don’t need to start from scratch. Working with a partner like Dynamic Language can make your content more accessible with a proven and efficient process.
We can review existing content and documents to ensure they align with 508 remediation standards and help you create new documents that are formatted to hit all accessibility benchmarks.