What it is
When you’re designing content, you need to make sure the information can be accessed and understood by everyone.
If your information meets a good standard of accessibility, this helps users who:
- use screen readers
- have limited literacy
- don’t speak English as their first language
- are native BSL (British sign language) users
- are colour blind
- have a visual impairment
- have learning difficulties
- physical disabilities
Why it’s important
We have a legal obligation to make sure information can be accessed by everyone. Public organisations also have a legal obligation to make sure they’re not excluding people based on disability (as well as other protected characteristics).
The benefits to making sure your content is accessible go beyond simply meeting legal obligations. These include:
- supporting users with disabilities
- increased credibility for your organisation
- making content generally more accessible (useable) for anyone
- helping prevent complaints or unnecessary queries
- helping establish a base level of ‘good design’ (font choice and minimum size, responsive screens, colours and contrast, imagery, placement)
How you do it
Making sure your site is accessible
Making content accessible begins with site design. Setting up accessible features on your site will usually be the responsibility of your tech or web design team, but it’s important that content designers are also involved from the beginning of a site’s development.
Content designers will be responsible for creating text for several accessibility features in the Content Management System (CMS), including error messaging and ‘alt text’(alternative text) for images. Alt text describes an image. It means that if your users are using screen readers the text will be read out and make your image accessible.
When a site is being developed, content designers can help make sure the following topics are considered:
- technology - your site’s features and layout (CSS style sheets, tagging, metadata, tab styles, etc.) must be designed in a way that can be interpreted by communication support technology like screen readers
- video - all information needs to be accessible to people who use BSL. This means your CMS will need to need to be able to host or integrate video
- responsive formats - the site should be able to adapt to different formats (e.g. mobile screens, desktops, tablets) and have its text resized
- translation - the site should be available to be translated into other languages, including in BSL
- style - use fonts, images and colour that are easily readable for people with visual or learning difficulties
- images - any images should be appropriately tagged and have relevant alt text and metadata
- colour - your site should not rely on colour to convey meaning (for example, an instruction saying ‘click the green button’ may be impossible to follow for some users with visual impairments)
- error messaging - error messages should give clear instructions and be written in plain English
Writing in an accessible way
Content designers can make sure information is accessible by using plain English to write in a way that is easy for users to understand.
- GOV.UK ─ Make things accessible
- Accessible content
- Digital Scotland design standards - accessibility
- Alt text decision tree
There are established standards for accessibility, like AAA Web Content Accessibility guidelines. These standards were created by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The guidelines explain how to make web content accessible to all users, including people with disabilities.
The WAI provides guidance on designing, writing and developing accessible content, as well as guidance, information and support for businesses looking to promote accessible content.
Digital First Service Standard
This article offers guidance relevant to the following criterion from the Digital First service standard:
- Usable and accessible