Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents

Although there are many aspects to consider when evaluating a document for accessibility, these are the Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents when creating a new document OR when evaluating the accessibility of an existing document.

Font

Choose fonts that are easy to read. Sans serif fonts are the best choice for the body of your document or other large sections of text. Serif fonts can still be used for headings or other large text.

Semantic Structure

Use the semantic heading structure available in the “ribbon” of your word processing application to indicate the hierarchy of headings throughout the document. This should seem similar to an outline.

The basic Idea:

The title should be a level 1 heading. There is only one level 1 header in the entire file. Level 2 headings will be for any sectioning within the document. Meanwhile, level 3, 4, 5, and 6 headings will be used to further breakdown each topic, idea, chapter, etc. into smaller sections.

For example:

On this page the heading levels (shown as <h1> for level 1, <h2> for level 2, and so on…) are:

  • <h1> Top 7 Accessibility Considerations for Digital Documents
    • <h2> Font
    • <h2> Semantic Structure
      • <h3> The Basic Idea
      • <h3> For Example
    • <h2> Lists
    • <h2> Color Considerations
    • <h2> Descriptive Links
    • <h2> Alternative Text
    • <h2> Captions

Lists

When making a list, use the tools provided to create bullets, numbering, or outlining. These tools create the semantic structure for unordered or ordered lists. Avoid using dashes, astericks, tabbing, or self-numbering

Color Considerations

Ensure that the colors used for font and graphics create enough contrast with their backgrounds so that they are easy to read. Additionally, avoid communicating information through color reliance. Color can be used to enhance, but it should not be the only means of communicating.

Descriptive Links

Avoid pasting in a long, random URL by creating hyperlinks with custom text. When writing custom text for your hyperlink, you should also avoid phrases that are not descriptive like “read more” or “click here.” The best hyperlink text concisely conveys the link destination and makes sense when read out of context.

Alternative Text

Non-decorative images within digital documents require alternative text, frequently referred to as “alt text.” Alt text can be add in most applications by right-clicking (or command-clicking) and selecting “Edit alt text” from the drop down menu. Good alt text is a brief description of the content and the function of the image. Images that are only added for decorative purposes and do not add context to the document should be marked as “decorative.”

Captions

When a video or audio element is embedded in or linked to from a digital document captions or a transcript of the audio is required.