Whether we are drafting a report or a post on social media, we all want to reach as many people as possible. This can mean creating utilization-focused communications with our intended audience in mind, or creating useful evaluation recommendations. Another consideration is ensuring our message is accessible to everyone who wants to read it! In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, let’s look at simple steps we can all take to improve.

Use Alt Text for Images

Alternative text (“alt text”) describes an image for people who use assistive technology, like screen readers. In programs like Microsoft Word, you can add alt text to the image’s properties. On social media, you might include an image description in your post.

When writing alt text, keep it concise and stick to details that are important to the message of the image, not necessarily every visual detail. For example, alt text for the image below could be: “If rigorous, relevant data are readily available, stakeholders will have a better understanding of contributors and barriers to success. This in turn will lead to broadly accessible findings being disseminated, which will increase demand for and utilization of data. This will result in increased learning.” No need to specify that the image is blue, or has an icon of a stopwatch in the top right.

global accessibility day

Use Hyperlinks, and Display Meaningful Text

When you include a full link in the body of your text, a screen reader will read the whole link aloud. No one wants to listen to that! Use a hyperlink instead. Make sure the “display” text is meaningful and describes where the link goes. This allows people who use assistive technology to easily navigate the links you provide.

In short, be sure the language describing the link is clear, like this: Check out our recent blog post on managing stress!

Keep an Eye on Font Size and Color Contrast

We have all seen teeny-tiny fine print or poorly chosen text color (bright yellow on a white background, anyone?), that make documents difficult to read. In reports, font size should be 11–12 pt. and never smaller than 9 pt. and use a color contrast checker to ensure the color of your text and your background provide enough contrast. Using sufficient color contrast will make your message easier to read and more esthetically pleasing for all readers!

Build Tables for Accessibility

When building a table into a report, keep these tips in mind:

  • In Microsoft Word, make sure your header rows are set to repeat. This helps users of assistive technology know that this is a header row and provides visual context for tables spanning multiple pages.
  • Avoid large tables with multiple sub-headings. Break it up into multiple, shorter tables instead.
  • Ask yourself if you really need a table! In some cases a bulleted list will do, which is inherently more accessible.
Accessibility at EnCompass

In our work for USAID and the U.S. Department of State, one of our roles is to work with our clients to navigate Section 508 requirements for accessibility. For some examples of 508-conforming deliverables we’ve created, check out the USAID Youth in Development Policy and the FY 2020 Global Water and Development Report.

Want to learn more about accessibility and Section 508? Take a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a PDF 508-conforming with one of our accessibility specialists, Julie Harris!

Questions or Ideas?

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us at @EnCompass_World.