Thinking about accessibility

A group of us within the Early Years and Childcare Service have been meeting regularly to think about how we make our website, newsletters and documents accessible.

We are doing this because of new legislation that was introduced by the Government in 2018 that forces public sector websites to be as accessible as possible. Websites and any other new content we publish should be accessible (to a minimum standard) by 23rd September 2020.

Early Years and Childcare settings aren’t included in the regulations that come into force in September as it only affects government organisations, but it is good practice to have accessible content.

We thought we’d share some good practice and tips with you. We hope you will consider this when putting together your newsletters, leaflets, emails, webpages and social media too.

Why should we make content accessible?

Accessibility is the degree to which a system or service is available to as many people as possible.

This includes people with:

  • impaired vision
  • motor difficulties
  • cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
  • deafness or impaired hearing

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability. Many more have a temporary health condition.

Practical steps to create accessible content:

Text content:

  • Use a sans serif font like Arial and a minimum size of 12 points
  • Keep formatting simple, use sentence case and write in plain English
  • Do not apply formatting such as bold, italics or font size directly to text to distinguish a heading or title – instead, format and apply the ‘heading’ style for the document or page as required
  • Use ‘headings’ to structure the document, allowing users of screen readers to navigate the content easily, e.g. in a Word document: apply Heading 1, Heading 2 etc from the Styles selection on the Home menu to distinguish the main page title and any sub titles

Links:

  • Use description for the link text – links are more useful when they make sense out of context. Avoid ‘read more’, ‘click here’ and the like. Instead, describe the link. E.g. Replace: ‘check a qualification is full and relevant by clicking here’ and use instead: ‘check a qualification is full and relevant’.

Contrast:

  • Ensure there is enough contrast between any text and background, and that any colours are clear enough for colour blind users. There are many contract checkers available online, for example, contrastchecker.com.

Images and charts:

  • If using an image on your webpage add appropriate alternative text (‘alt text’) to describe the image. Alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers. See the image below, a good example of alt text to describe this image might be: ‘a child stacking yellow, green, red and blue Duplo blocks in a tower’.

A child stacking yellow, red, blue and green Duplo blocks in a tower.