Digital accessibility, why it matters and how to create accessible documents

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is about how we as a university provide an inclusive digital environment for students, staff and indeed anyone that accesses any of our digital content, whether online or through any of our internal systems.

Providing an inclusive environment means creating all documents, materials and resources in an accessible way.  For example, text styling and ALT tags (assistive text) for images should be used when creating a Microsoft Word document and also for presentations using Microsoft Powerpoint or Excel.  These considerations will greatly help people who have dyslexia, sight and hearing impairments/ disabilities to access digital content better.

If you’d like to download the digital accessibility style guide, this can be edited as required.

Why be digitally accessible?

It’s the law – from 23rd September 2019, websites published on or after 23rd September 2018, must make their content, resources and digital content accessible by 23rd September 2019.  Websites published before September 2018, must comply before 23rd September 2020.  Apps must comply by the 23rd June 2021.

It’s not just about making sure the content is compliant, it’s about providing an inclusive environment for anyone that accesses content at Marjon.

Marjon has a higher than average rate of students disclosing disability compared with other UK universities (22-25% of the population, higher rates within undergraduates compared to postgraduates)

Top tips for creating accessible content

  • When creating a document, use design styling for text headings to create consistency in your documents
  • Always add ALT tags for all images used (unless they are decorative, like coloured blocks that have no bearing on the piece)
  • Use an accessible font type, such as: Arial, CalibriCentury GothicHelveticaTahoma and Verdana
  • When constructing text, use paragraphs and limit the use of technical language and abbreviations – use bullet points to make text easier to read
  • Use a minimum font size of 12 points
  • Use descriptive hyperlinks to direct your audience to other content instead of web address links (and never use ‘click here’).
  • Limit the use of text underlining as this can be confused with hyperlinking
  • Consider people who have colour blindness if you use different colours in your documents, try to avoid red, green and pink colours
  • Use Microsoft accessibility checker (under the ‘Review’ tab for Word & Powerpoint)
  • Use the ‘Read Aloud’ function in Microsoft Word to hear how someone with a screenreader would access your document
  • Caption videos to provide a text transcript for people with hearing issues to access video content (use Microsoft Stream or
  • If you do need to print out documents, try to ensure that the background colour is set to a cream or soft pastel colour. (In Word, go to File > Options > Display > Check the box for ‘Print background colours and images’)

How do I do this?

If you’re scratching your head in bewilderment at the above, help is at hand in the form of the below screencast.  This screencast will show you exactly how to create an accessible document. (skip to 5:20 in the video if you want to go straight to how to make your document accessible)

Note: for users of older versions of Microsoft Word, such as Office 2010 – the accessibility checker may not be available, or it could be found via the advice below:

  • Go to File > Info > Check for issues > Check accessibility
  • Right click on your picture in your document > Select ‘Format Picture’ > Click on the ‘alt text’ option (enter a description in the box)

Further resources

Here are some really useful resources about accessibility that you may wish to explore:

This post has been created to raise awareness of digital accessibility and provide some helpful advice.  It is not a complete fix, so if you have any concerns please contact us.

Digital accessibility style guide.

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Matt Ewens

Digital Innovation Technologist

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