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Accessibility

An overview of best accessibility practices.

Five Accessibility Practices

Overview

Whether you’re creating Word, PowerPoint, or Excel documents; editing text boxes in a LMS (Learning Management System); or creating web content; this page details five basic practices you can use to enhance accessibility.

Accessibility Practice 1: Alt (Alternative) Text

Alternative (Alt) Text for Images, Icons, and Other Graphic Objects

  • Screen-readers are often unable to process images, icons, and other graphic objects like charts and diagrams, unless creators add alt text.

    • Alt text is a written description that assistive technologies can read to the user. Alt text enables users to understand that an image or object is purely decorative or that it includes vital or relevant information.

  • Alt text is also very helpful when a webpage with images won’t load, and it contributes to strong web indexing, thereby enhancing our searching practices. 

This Harvard University guide provides essential tips and context for writing clear alt text:

Accessibility Practice 2: Color Contrast

Color Contrast

  • Whether you’re color-coding text for emphasis, creating headers, or designing a logo, not all colors are universally perceptible on a “standard” computer or phone background. When colors are combined, particularly for images, they may become imperceptible to users.

  • As a general rule, avoid signaling or emphasizing key points or ideas through the use of color only. Always check color contrast to ensure its perceptibility for as many users as possible.

To test color contrast, try out Web Aim’s Contrast Checker:

Once you input the html color code into the foreground box and the background box, the Contrast Checker will show you whether or not your color choices and combinations are accessible as normal text, large text, and Graphical Objects and User Interface Components.

Accessibility Practice 3: Font Face and Size

Font Style and Size

  • Sans serif fonts like Arial, Calibri, Georgia, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Verdana are often listed as very accessible.
  • Using 12pt or 14pt size font is likewise often recommended, though accessible size also depends on font style and purpose.
  • Font selection for accessibility transcends style and size issues. This topic also encompasses spacing, character complexity and more.

For additional information on accessible typefaces and fonts, please see the following guides:

Accessibility Practice 4: Headings

Headings

  • We often organize the content of documents and webpages with titles and subtitles. Screen reader software relies on strong structuring to allow easy navigation through the document. Bolding and using a different font size for titles and subtitles doesn’t make them visible for screen-readers, and underlining is problematic because it is associated with hyperlinks.
  • For strong accessibility practices, structure Word documents, LMS content, and web content using leveled headings. Make sure that the heading levels match the structure of the content.

For more information on creating accessible headings, please see:

Accessibility Practice 5: Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks

  • Creating short, descriptive, contextualized hyperlinks contributes to strong accessibility practices.
  • When phrases like “click here” and “contact us” with hyperlinks appear in documents, or when long URLs are cut and pasted into documents, screen readers will not pick up or present the full content for users. Additionally, these moves create readability issues for sighted users.  

For more information on creating accessible links, please see: