The University of Waterloo is in the process of making our communications more accessible to everyone. Part of my job this term, as a Special Projects Assistant in the Centre for Teaching Excellence, has been to make our newsletter (Teaching Matters) more accessible.
I credit most of my knowledge to IST (Information Systems & Technology) and their SEW (Skills for the Electronic Workplace) courses and material, available to staff and faculty, which can be found on their Help & Training page.
Quick tips that helped me are:
Things that are not accessible and should not be used:
• Text boxes
• Drop caps
• Hyperlinks like “click here” or “more”
• Avoid adding in pictures that add no value other than “looking nice”
• Blank cells in a table
Things to do that increase accessibility:
• Use Styles appropriately
• Use descriptive hyperlinks: State the title of webpage (example: “Centre for Teaching Excellence”) “ instead of “click here”
• Provide alternate text for pictures, figures, and tables
• Use the built in accessibility checker (in Word 2010)
Finally here are some of the tools that I have found helpful to check accessibility:
• The PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) (use this to check your PDF files)
• The Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE) (use this to check if your website is accessible)
• The built in Accessibility checkers in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word
I know it seems like a daunting task with a lot more work when you start to make your material accessible. Once we know what is/isn’t accessible, however, we can change our formatting habits and the process becomes very easy. It is also important to note that the real reason we are making our communications accessible is to make it easier to serve our audiences equally and not just because of new accessibility laws.