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How to create accessible electronic documents.

More and more documents are being published electronically directly to the internet.  This may pose a barrier for some users if universal design and accessibility is not embedded into the design process of these documents.  For example if a PDF document is uploaded onto your website and the pdf is not designed/published with accessibility in mind it will be inaccessible for someone using a screen reader. Therefore some people with visual impairments will not be able to read your documentation.

The following are some easy tips to ensure your organisation designed and publishes accessible electronic documents:

  1. Style Guide/Source Document: Create a style guide (or source document) for your organisation and ensure all staff use this document when creating reports, documents and letters.  Creating a style guide allows documents to be easily converted into accessible formats (i.e. HTML and accessible PDFs).
  2. Write clear content:   Best practice recommends that content is written in plain English.  Plain English is defined as “a generic term for communication in English that emphasizes clarity, brevity, and the avoidance of technical language – particularly in relation to official government or business communication”.
  3. Staff awareness: Ensure all staff and external stakeholders are aware of the organisations commitment to providing accessible information for all.  Ensure staff training (as required) is provided for all staff in relation to producing accessible documentation.  For example if photographs and images are included in reports, has consideration been given to describing the images for people with visual impairments?
  4. Accessibility standards: Ensure the designers, authors and developers of your documentation are aware of and utilise the latest standards and best practice guidelines relating to accessibility.  For example the ISO launched a standard on accessible PDFs in August 2012.
  5. Monitor accessible information provision: Monitor and review the accessibility of your document creation and report to senior management on a regular basis.  Remember if you are a public body as defined by the Disability Act you must meet the requirements of Section 28 (Accessible information).  Section 28 requires that Public bodies, as far as practicable, communicates in forms that are accessible.

If you would like further information or assistance in relation to creating accessible electronic documentation, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on 01-4151285 or e-mail [email protected].