Being Accessible

Making your literature accessible

If your material is accessible, not only will more people find out about your organisation, it will also open your business up to a vast potential customer base. To understand how important this base is, it may be interesting to look at the numbers of people who would benefit from easily accessible information:

• over 7 million adults have difficulties with reading, writing and arithmetic

• there are 2 million people with a visual impairment

• it has been estimated that 9 million people have some form of hearing disability and approximately 50,000 use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language

• there are over 1 million adults with learning disabilities

• around 10% of the population has dyslexia

• around 8% of men and 0.5% of women have problems with their colour vision

• for at least 10% of the population, English is not their first language

There are a number of ways to make all your materials more accessible:

Plain language
Writing your materials in plain language is cost effective and an important step towards making your information accessible to the widest possible audience.

• use language that is appropriate to the target audience

• try to avoid jargon and abbreviations

• keep sentences short, 15-20 words per sentence is often recommended as a general rule

• keep punctuation simple and accurate, e.g. the use of semi-colons, colons and square brackets can be confusing for a reader

Design, print and layout
Information can fail to reach everyone simply because of the design of the website, poster or leaflet, for example:

• use an accessible font style and size, 12 point type is the minimum recommended for a general audience and 14 point is the minimum suggested for

people with a visual impairment. Arial is often used as it is an easily readable typeface

• keep paragraphs short with wide spacing between each paragraph

• always use bold to highlight text, as words that are underlined or in italics are harder to read

• be aware that words written in capital letters are generally more difficult to read than lower case lettering

• use titles and headings to break up large blocks of text

• using illustrations and photographs to support text will help everyone to understand your message, but particularly people with learning disabilities, literacy conditions and people whose first language is not English

Use of colour
• the contrast between text colour and background is very important. Black on white is the best choice, but good contrast can also be achieved with other colours – for example, black on pale yellow

• be aware that colours such as red, often used to emphasise important words, are actually more difficult to read

• text applied over graphics or background photographs can be very difficult to see and should be avoided

Placing your company literature on a fully accessible website is a simple and cost effective way of ensuring information is available to a wider audience.

In the UK there are over 6.5 million disabled people of working age (Labour Force Survey,Jan – March 2009)

With just under half (45%) of the UK population now online*, it is more important than ever for employers’ websites to be accessible. (*Mori technology tracker) There is a raft of special technology available. For example, for visually impaired users there is a software application called a screen reader, which converts what is displayed on the screen into synthesised speech or refreshable Braille.

To measure how accessible your website is you can refer to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), which have been developed as part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative. They consist of a set of guidelines on making content accessible, primarily for disabled users.

You can also check how your website performs by using online tools such as ‘Cynthia Says’. Go to

It is always advisable to have an accessibility expert review your site. Never fully rely on automated testing as automated tools can only give you part of the picture. When procuring new websites or digital tools, you can refer to PAS 78, (Publicly Available Specification) a document produced by the BSI (British Standards Institute) that contains useful information and outlines good practice in commissioning websites that are accessible.

Producing alternative formats on demand
If, after research, you expect only a few requests for information in alternative formats, it may be acceptable to produce them on demand. However, it is important to ensure procedures are in place to produce them within a reasonable length of time.

• have your document prepared using a transcription service, for example, into Braille or on audiotape, so it can be produced quickly, as required

• identify suppliers in advance who can produce documents at an acceptable standard and within an acceptable time frame

• publicise the availability of accessible formats

• include text phone, minicom numbers, website and email addresses on all literature

• ensure staff dealing with members of the public are aware of those products and literature available in alternative formats

When planning events and choosing a venue select an accessible location whether or not you expect disabled people to attend. If you use a commercial venue finding service to select hotels or conference centres, ensure that their staff are disability-aware and are asking the right questions of providers. For example, ask if venues have:

• induction loops

• the dimensions of door widths or lifts

• path gradients and textures

• health and safety arrangements, such as alerting guests with hearing impairments to alarms

On invitations or forms relating to events, always ask people to let you know if they have any access requirements.

When visiting your prospective venue, check:

• general access, parking arrangements and suitable toilet facilities

• guide dogs for blind people will be made welcome

• the health and safety of disabled delegates is taken into account at all times, for instance in the event of emergency evacuation

• when choosing or setting out a room for an event, make sure that wheelchair users or people with mobility needs can move around easily

• all training materials or visual aids are accessible e.g. ensure that slides

• do not have distracting background graphics and that documentation is in an easy to read font. Try to use videos which have subtitles or make a transcript

• wherever possible, offer materials in alternative formats in advance e.g. audiotapes or large print. Few people may need such materials, but it is important to offer the service to ensure full access. There are a number of organisations which can assist you in providing alternative formats, usually at very reasonable cost

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