10 ways to make your report more visually accessible
Making reports visually accessible is a common challenge for charities and other organisations. Tim Bidey presents ten easy-to-implement tips to improve the visual accessibility of your reports.
Imagine not being able to quickly scan a report to find the information you need.
More than two million people in the UK are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives. It’s a right for anyone to have access to the reports that organisations and evaluators produce, but making reports visually accessible is a common challenge for charities and other organisations that don’t always have the necessary time or resources.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to improve the accessibility of your reports. Beyond being concise and using simple language, here are some easy-to-implement top tips that I have learned through working alongside staff at organisations such as Disability Rights UK.
Tweet me at @timbidey and @traversepeople to share your own visual accessibility tips!
Familiarise yourself with assistive technologies
Get to know assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. I didn’t fully understand the functionality (and limitations) of screen readers until I started using them to help proof read reports. Be aware that:
1. Screen readers don’t recognise text within text boxes. If you are using them to achieve a visual effect, try inserting a shape behind your body text instead!
2. Screen readers do pickup almost everything else in a document, so take time to shorten non-essential information such as long strings of numbers!
Get to grips with formatting essentials
Formatting your report so it is accessible is one of the simplest and quickest things you can do. This includes:
3. Font type. The most accessible fonts are ‘sans serif’, including Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Tahoma and Verdana.
4. Font size. A minimum of 14 point font size is recommended.
5. Colour contrasts. Colour hues are perceived differently by people with colour-blindness, and contrast between colours is less obvious to people with declining vision. You can use the Colour Contrast Analyser tool to check the accessibility of foreground and background colours.
6. Headings. The headings function in Word enables users to easily know where they are within the hierarchy of your report – and move around it more quickly.
7. Meaningful hyperlinks. Describe where a hyperlink will take a reader rather than hyperlinking text such as ‘click here’ or ‘read more’.
The use of charts and infographics to quickly convey information has skyrocketed in recent years, but, if not done properly, this can come at a cost to people living with sight loss.
8. Use alternative text (‘alt text’) to describe what’s in essential images or graphs, which will be picked up by screen readers. Try to be as descriptive as possible, but also strategic – purely decorative images that don’t add meaning can add noise to screen readers. There are a whole host of good practice articles on the internet for graphs, but I regularly revisit this article on image descriptions for graphs to help guide my decisions.
9. Don’t focus your chart design solely on different colours, shapes, patterns and line types can also help differentiate between different data items.
10. Pick your colours carefully and avoid hard-to-see colour combinations such as red and green (which can present an issue for colour blind people).
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