Step-by-step checklist for Document Accessibility

We should remember that creating documents that can be accessed and consumed by people of all abilities (who are physically impaired, visually impaired, hard of hearing, or who have cognitive disabilities) is as important as making websites accessible.

Why should documents in asset management be accessible?  This topic of discussion arose in one of my customer meetings a few weeks back and got me thinking as to how their requirements to produce fund factsheets that are accessible could be facilitated by us (Kurtosys) as their provider of an end-to-end digital experience platform.

A document is accessible if it conforms to certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities to ensure a better user experience.

The following is a rule of thumb checklist to ensure that documents are accessible:

  1. Ensure that the document has a meaningful title with all the metadata such as author, key search words, language, etc. all completed
  2. Make use a proper ‘headings’ structure by using a hierarchy: Title, Heading 1, Heading 2 is used to define subsections of Heading 1, Heading 3 is used to define subsections of Heading 2, etc. These structures allow screen readers to identify the headings for the listener and allows for better navigation of the document.
  3. Write using short, simple sentences. A sentence should be between 15 and 20 words. Longer sentences should convey no more than three pieces of information.
  4. Make use of active and not passive verbs.
  5. Use plain language avoiding all jargon and acronyms. If these are absolutely necessary, they should be defined when first used in the document.
  6. Use common, plain fonts of at least a 12 point size. Although there are no rules around which are the best fonts, it is generally accepted that fonts with a heavier weight are easier to read (sans-serif fonts).
  7. Lowercase letters are easier to read than capitals.
  8. High contrast makes documents more legible and colour contrasts such as black text on a yellow background can be beneficial, especially to people who are dyslexic or have other learning difficulties.
  9. Do not put too much text on a page and allow adequate spacing between paragraphs as white space makes information easier to read.
  10. Large and bold fonts are useful for highlighting and emphasising text while italics and underlining can make the text more difficult to read.
  11. Numbers from one to nine are easier to read if they are written as words in text, while numbers from 10 upwards numbers should be displayed as numerals.
  12. Justify text to the left as this makes it easier to find the start and end of each line and ensures an even gap between word.
  13. Do not hyphenate words at the end of lines.
  14. Make use of proper list formatting for numbered and / or bulleted lists.
  15. The use of images in a document can help convey complex information, but one needs to provide a meaningful description of these as alternate text. Images can also help readers with dyslexia and learning difficulties, but should be carefully considered as images placed badly may interrupt the flow of the text and make it more difficult to follow.

After a document has been created, use the product’s accessibility checker to analyse whether the document is accessible or not. If it is not, please make the recommended changes before publishing.

When creating documents, even complex fund related documents, in future, think of what it would be like to hear what is contained in the document instead of reading it. Ask these questions: Has alternate text been added to each image? Is contact information readily available on who to call should there be difficulty reading the document? Is the layout and structure easy to follow and does it make sense?

When choosing a vendor to produce accessible documents, make sure that they can create and deliver documents that contain all the elements needed to produce accessible output.

By making your company’s documents accessible, not only are you providing access to information and interaction for many with disabilities, but you are also ensuring there are no barriers to a better user experience.(Removed) Starting right now will make accessibility easier for everybody in the future.