- Make sure text is clear, concise and, where possible, uses Plain English. Avoid the use of jargon unless necessary or appropriate to your target audience.
- Keep paragraphs short (between 4-8 lines). This makes articles more accessible and easier to read. More information on writing in Plain English.
- Keep sentences short, where possible, or use ample punctuation.
- For longer articles, consider breaking them up with subheadings.
- For the website, the most important thing about text size is consistency. Headings should be larger, subheadings can either be larger than body text or marked out using bold. All body text should be the same size. The CDN website has built-in functions for increasing text size and contrast for different accessibility needs.
- Every point in a set of bullet points should be followed by a full stop. If each point is particularly short, they can be followed by a semicolon (;) with the final bullet point ending with a full stop.
- En dashes (–) are more common than semi-colons (;) on digital platforms for expanding sentences – or breaking them up. Always use an en dash (–) not a hyphen (-) for breaking up sentences. Hyphens are only used to link compound words.
- Avoid using italics for emphasis or names and instead use bold. This is more accessible for people using accessibility software programs.
- Hyperlinks should be descriptive of what they are. Avoid hyperlinking short, generic words and phrases such ‘here’ and ‘read more’. Instead link keyword phrases. For e.g. ‘Read the Diamond First Cut Report’ as opposed to ‘Click here for the Diamond First cut report’. This is because screen-readers grab all of the links on a single page. If you use ‘here’ or ‘read more’ multiple times, the person using the screen-reader will not be able to distinguish between them. Other users often scan pages and documents for links, so having descriptive links helps sighted users too. Having descriptive hyperlinks also helps with SEO and indexing. More information on descriptive hyperlinks.
- Useful tip: being based on WordPress, the CDN website will retain formatting (hyperlinks, bold, underline etc.) of text pasted in from other sources, including Word documents and other websites.
- Always provide documents in both Word and PDF format. PDF is often inaccessible to screen-readers.
- The advice in the ‘Text’ section can also be applied to text-based documents.
- Text size in documents should be at least 14 point. Arial is generally considered one of the most accessible fonts. By sticking to at least size 14 Arial in documents, you will ensure they are more accessible to visually impaired readers.
- Wide variation in access and personal preference means there is no hard and fast rule on describing images in documents. Access depends on whether the user is reading via magnification or screen reader software. Basic descriptions e.g. ‘man holding a camera’ give little useful information. The one basic rule is to ensure that images are captioned where they inform the text above and beyond acting as a filler.
- If you are trying to attract applicants/responses from a particular impairment group, consider commissioning a version of your document especially suited to their particular needs. For example, learning-disabled audiences may find an ‘Easy Read’ version helpful. Easy and Clear, are just one company who offer Easy Read services.
- Even if you are not appealing to a particular impairment group, be aware that people with different access needs may need to view the document. Make it clear on the page with the document on, that different versions of the document can be made available on request (such as large print, high contrast, braille etc.) and provide contact information for those people to get in touch with what they require.
- Images should be a minimum of 500 pixels wide, to avoid looking pixelated. 1000+ pixels is desirable. Images needn’t be bigger than 4MB in size for the web.
- Make sure you either own the copyright of the image you are posting, or have express written permission from the copyright holder.
- CDN like most websites uses images either to illustrate content or to enhance navigation. When corresponding text is embedded in photographs, diagrams, or other visual formats, people who are blind or visually impaired will miss some or all of the information – so needs to be included within the image long description to be picked up by screen readers.
- Every image should be accompanied by the following information:
- Caption: this gives basic contextual information about the image e.g. the name of the television programme pictured, and the actors in the image. It should also include photographers credits/copyright information. It is visible to all users.
- Alt text: this is the text that is displayed if an image doesn’t display properly. It is also used by screen-readers and search engines. It does not show on the website, unless accessed with a screen-reader, or if the image is broken or has failed to load. Alt text is intended to identify the image and should be a concise description of what the image shows. Context will dictate the alt text. If the image performs a function – for example as a navigational tool, an icon for a download or as a hyperlink – the alt text should describe the function of the image, not its content. If the image is a photograph/screengrab/piece of art used to enhance the meaning of the written content, the alt text should describe in basic terms the content of the image. See the following link for a comprehensive guide on alt text.
- Long Description: this is longer than alt text and can go into more detail about what the image shows. It could, for example, include the names of the actors, the production and deeper contextual information. Again, this is only visible to people using screen-readers.
- Graphic buttons used for navigation purposes, must always have alt text explaining what the button does e.g. graphic for starting the e-learning course.
- All videos should have English captions. For YouTube and Vimeo hosted videos these can be turned on or off, which is preferable to having them hardcoded. Do not just rely on the YouTube auto-captions, they are often full of mistakes. Captions are similar to subtitles, but may also provide extra information to aid D/deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, for instance by indicating who is speaking if it is not visually clear.
- Some form of access for visually impaired users should accompany videos. At the most basic level, this can be provided as text-based content which introduces the video and gives an overview of the visual material to aid visually impaired users. For longer or more complex videos, you may want to consider a separate text document, which can then be read aloud by the users’ screen-reader software. See here for an example for the following film. The text document should describe what is happening visually in the film, in sequence. Alternatively, a second edit of the film can be provided which has audio-description as part of the voice-over; see here for an example of this. In the best-case scenario, audio-description can be built in to the main edit, by getting the subjects of the film to describe who and where they are at the top of the scene, and have the actions or cutaways described in a natural way. This approach can be useful for people with cognitive impairments as well as those who are visually impaired. This should be considered at the point of commissioning the film, and cannot be done retrospectively. There are several audio description consultants who you can employ to help with the process. The Audio Description Association (ADA) works to raise the standard and profile of audio description nationwide. Their website holds a UK-wide Directory of Audio Describers.
For an understanding of good practice in audio description, or media narration, Louise Fryer’s Introduction to Audio Description: A Practical Guide, published by Routledge comes highly recommended.
- If uploading an audio file (such as a podcast, recording of a radio broadcast, or short clip) please provide a transcript of the audio file, unless the text on the accompanying page already contains all of the required information.
In general the most important thing about navigation is to ensure consistency of approach across all pages within the site. For websites with complicated layers of content such as CDN there is an element in which the user needs to learn how to use the site. This is aided enormously by ensuring:
- Headings for navigation links in the top menu and the footer menu correspond, ensuring a user can always find their way back to a specific section of the website.
- Uniformity of style guide across the website, ensuring fonts, type-size and colour correspond within headings, hyperlinks and navigation buttons.
- Where a right-hand navigation column is used for sections of the site with additional sub-sections, ensure that clear navigation guide signposts a link back to the section homepage.
Language and messaging around disability
- Where content refers to disability, it is important to use language that does not offend, belittle or promote negative stereotypes.
- Most disability-led organisations follow the Social Model of Disability. The social model explains disability as a social construct. The Social Model holds that a person isn’t ‘disabled’ because of their impairment, health condition, or the ways in which they may differ from what is commonly considered the medical ‘norm’; rather it is the physical and attitudinal barriers in society – prejudice, lack of access adjustments and systematic exclusion – that disables people. As such, disability is not something someone ‘has’ (a problem found in the individual) – it is something they experience (disabling barriers imposed by society). Bearing the social model in mind when using language about disability and disabled people will help avoid nearly all of the common pitfalls.
- In the UK 1 in 5 identify as disabled people and 1 in 4 have experience of mental health issues. These experiences are just a normal fact of everyday life. Content should try to reflect this, rather than seeing it as something ‘special,’ ‘abnormal,’ ‘exceptional’ etc.
- Messaging around disability should try to avoid common tropes such as ‘triumph over tragedy’ and ‘inspiration porn’. Disability Politics: Understanding Our Past, Changing Our Future by Jane Campbell and Mike Oliver details the impact of disability stereotypes used extensively within the media to represent disabled people such as tropes identifying disability with stories of triumphing over tragedy. For further understanding watch Stella Young’s TEDxSydney 2014 talk on Inspiration porn and the objectification of disability.
- Avoid framing disability in terms of charity and pity.
- Some helpful distinctions for common phrases about disability:
- Use the term ‘disabled people’ not ‘people with disabilities’.
- Use the term ‘disabled people’ not ‘the disabled’.
- Avoid euphemistic terms such as ‘differently abled’ ‘people of all abilities’ – these obscure the marginalisation disabled people experience.
- Use the term ‘impairment(s),’ not ‘disability/disabilities’ to refer to a person’s particular medical, physical, sensory or cognitive impairment. For example, avoid the phrase ‘my/their/his/her disabilities’. If the sentence is referring to the person’s impairments, use the term ‘my/their/his/her impairments’. If it is referring to their experience of discrimination or barriers, use the phrase ‘my/their/his/her disability’.
- Use the term ‘wheelchair user’ rather than ‘wheelchair bound,’ ‘confined to a wheelchair’ etc. Most wheelchair users feel enabled by their wheelchair not ‘confined’ to it.
- Generally avoid saying people ‘suffer from’ their particular impairments.
- Avoid the term ‘mentally ill’ or describing someone as ‘mental’. You could say someone ‘experiences mental health issues’ or has ‘periods of mental ill-health’.
- People who identify culturally as Deaf write it with a capital ‘D’. Those just referring to the impairment use a lowercase ‘d’. Consider asking the person/group in question which they prefer, or fall back on the catch all ‘D/deaf’.
Checklist for uploading new types of content
- Does it conform to the style guides for content type, outlined above?
- Has it been proofed or seen by multiple people to check for inaccuracies, inconsistencies or technical problems?
- Are all the correct permissions in place (especially for images, videos, quotes, etc.)? Do you have correct photographers/filmmakers credits?
- Is it clear and well laid out?
- Does it have sufficient visual assets (such as images or video) to make it appealing to look at and digestible?
- Have you tested it on a range of browsers (minimum 3: Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer)?
- Will the content be accessible to people with sensory impairments such as visually impaired, or deaf people? Have you thought about auditing the content for access?
- Have you checked that all of the hyperlinks work and are correctly labelled (see above)?
- Have you thought about which section of the website it will sit on and how it will link to/relate to other content on the website?
- For larger pieces of content: have you considered user-testing?
- Have you considered how you will promote the content, for example on social media or by getting partners to promote? Have you targeted interested parties and user groups?
- Will the content need to be revised or updated at a later date? If so, who will be responsible for this?