Write accessible documents for people with visual impairment or dyslexia.
This article helps you to make your information more accessible, including those on your website. In doing so, you will be meeting objectives of your Accessibility Plan.
All schools have needed an Accessibility Plan for many years. It sets out how school will become more accessible over a three year period.
The laws on this apply to both academies and maintained schools and there are three key areas to consider:
The Equality Act means that schools have an ‘anticipatory duty’ to make reasonable adjustments (i.e. not wait until it becomes a problem for someone).
Upto 4% of the population relies on some sort of assistive technology because of a visual impairment (VI).
This can include:
- Screen reading software
- Refreshable braille displays
- Screen magnifiers
The British Dyslexia Association indicates that 10% of adults have dyslexia.
Follow these tips and your school info will be more accessible for your readers with both dyslexia and/or VI.
Seven Helpful Tips
1: Use accessible headings
Word has headings options 1 to 5. They add invisible codes to your document that help screen reader users skip between important bits.
Always use Heading 1 for your main title. Then use Heading 2 & 3 for subheadings depending on how important the subheading is.
You’ll probably not use Heading 4 or 5 unless you have minor subheadings.
In Word, you’ll find headings in the Styles section:
If you find this turns your headings light blue, don’t worry. That’s easily fixed. Right click on your Heading 1, 2, 3 etc and then click modify:
Once you click modify, simply pick your font, colour, size and bold.
2: Use a good contrast
This means light text on a dark background or vis-a-versa.
It’s considered dyslexia friendly to add a pale background to your text.
Certain bright colour combinations can make text uncomfortable to read. Don’t give your reader a headache!
3: Add Alt Text
This means adding a description to any picture you use. Think about describing the image to someone over the phone: What does it tell you.
If you use more than 25 words, you are going on too long.
Be short and sweet with your description.
- Right click on image.
- Click Format image.
- Click Layout and Properties.
- Add your text.
4: What’s an accessible document format?
MS word or a pdf.
5: Easily convert Word docs to pdfs
Never print your word doc and scan it as a pdf.
Where pdfs are just scans of printed documents, screen readers can’t read the text. The screen reader say things like “Empty document.” Which means the document can’t be accessed.
If you are converting a word doc to pdf, you can convert the digital file (rather than print it out and scan it as a pdf).
It’s simple to use Save As to turn a word doc into a pdf.
In the File menu, click Save As. Then click Save as type.
Click (or type) PDF.
6: Accessible Fonts
A serif is a small decoration to finish off letters.
Serif fonts include these decorations. The extra detail makes the fonts less readable.
Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman.
Instead choose a sans-serif font.
Sans-serif means “without serif”, so without the decoration that makes the font harder to read.
7: Other accessible font tips
- Bold? Yes. This highlights key info and is more legible.
- Size? 14 or 16 for headings. 12 for your main text.
- Italics? No
- Cursive script? No
- Text in capitals? No
What if I don’t have time to check all my documents?
Then don’t go through them all.
See this as a three – five year project and make improvements when a policy is reviewed.
Some steps are easy (e.g. changing from cursive to a sans-serif font, using size 12, not using scanned pdfs). You may need to take other steps later.
Decide what is realistic at the present time.
Add what you can achieve to both your school’s accessibility plan and SEND action plan.
Extra Accessibility Plan Help
Download this document for text to copy into your school accessibility plan.
In Summary, use:
- Word or non-scanned Pdf
- Word’s tools to mark headings as headings
- Alt text for images
- Size 12 serif font
- Bold text for headings (size 14-16)
- Text that has a good contrast with the background
Other Interesting reads
- School governors: Asking the right questions about mental health
- Covid tests in schools: Visual help for pupils with SEND.
Want to try a screen reader?
There are several free options. Try NV Access screen reader – click here.
Where can I get more advice or support?
- To ask questions or get support for your accessibility, documents or policies, please get in touch.