Happy National AccessAbility Week! Although I’ve been working in the disability and inclusion space for almost 8 years, I’m always learning new ways to make my writing more accessible and inclusive. Here are my top 5 tips!

  1. Plan for accessibility from the start. Trying to fix issues later is almost always more time consuming, expensive, and frustrating. These are a few easy things you can do from the start:

    • Create properly formatted heading using the styles panel in Microsoft Word
    • Choose a sans serif font (like Calibri or Arial) in size 14
    • Leave plenty of white space between lines and paragraphs, and in the margins

  2. Use plain language. This means using language and structure that make it easy for your audience to find, understand and use the information provided. Choose short, simple words. Use an active writing voice. Speak directly to your reader. Break up long sentences and paragraphs. The Inclusive Workplace has great resources about how plain language can make your workplace more accessible for everyone!

  3. Include alternative text (alt text). Alt text is a written description of an image. Screen readers announce alt text in place of images, giving people with visual disabilities equal access. Alt text should be brief, and precise. Use it anywhere you include an image – on social media, in a written document, and on your website.

  4. Invest in user testing. The only people who can tell you whether your document is accessible for them, is your intended audience. Identify your audience from the start. Choose user testers who represent the diversity within your intended audience. Get them involved early and ask them to give feedback often. Be sure to pay your user testers!

  5. Try out all the cool free tools! There are lots of incredible online tools available. Use them to help you identify and fix issues and improve your skills. But remember, even the best tool can’t replace the expertise of a user tester with lived experience.

    These are some of my favourites:  

These are just a few ways you can build accessibility into your work. Learning to create accessible and inclusive spaces, both online and in-person, is a lifelong learning process. I hope you’ll join me as we continue to learn together.

Rachel Mills is a Senior Policy Analyst with Inclusion Canada.