Top 12 accessibility tips

Thousands of your customers have, or will have, disabilities that affect hearing, speaking, reading, writing and understanding. Making your organization fully accessible is a necessary undertaking. And one required by law. However, the desire to be accessible shouldn’t be driven by fear of litigation, but rather a dedication to ensuring your communications reach, and are understood by, everyone equally.

While much has been made of the requirement of Ontario municipalities to make their websites accessible via screen-reader compatible text, video captions, tags, fewer images, etc., there are other ways to ensure better accessibility for websites, print materials and verbal communication in general:

  • Individuals with a communication disability may need more time to communicate and a quieter environment.
  • Use plain and clear language that can be understood by those from a wide range of educational and understanding levels: short sentences, common words and simple sentence structure.
  • Align text to the left margin (this makes it easy to find the start of the next line) and avoid justifying text, which can lead to uneven spacing that can make reading more difficult.
  • Font size must not be smaller than 10 points.
  • Font type should be sans serif (e.g. Arial, Calibri) and non-condensed, meaning not narrowed.
  • Ensure good contrast: black/white is the best, but 70% contrast is also effective.
  • Avoid scripted fonts and the use of “&”.
  • Avoid putting text over images unless there is sufficient contrast.
  • Avoid underlining or italicizing.
  • Avoid glossy brochures, or have another version available for those with low vision.
  • Spacing between columns, rows, margins, paragraphs, words and letters should be sufficient to distinguish each element clearly.
  • Form entry fields should provide sufficient room to be filled out by those with large handwriting or motor conditions.

A while back I had the opportunity to apply the above recommendations while working with the County of Wellington to develop their Festivals and Events guide. Their “Accessibility Officer” was so committed to applying these guidelines to all materials that I have been inspired to make similar recommendations to all my clients: the ability to communicate is a fundamental human right.

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