City encourages students to consider and improve the accessibility of their digital content to enable disabled staff and students to engage with your content and make it readable by assistive technologies. Building accessibility into your content workflows will improve the awareness and employability skills for all students.
This section of the guide will explain simple steps and best practice guidelines to improve the digital accessibility of your documents. These are skills that can be developed into long-term habits.
The SCULPT model was developed at Worcestershire County Council as a guide to the basics of everyday inclusive digital practice. It can be used to apply the basic principles of digital accessibility into documents and content. It is an acronym which stands for:
All non-textual elements, such as images, graphs, etc. should have an alternative text that describes the content or the information it is trying to convey. It is then possible for users to change it into large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
The image can be marked as decorative if it conveys no necessary information. Complex images, such as a chart, graph or map, may require an additional long description to the alternative text to make it meaningful to a screenreader user. The W3C guidance on complex images has examples of how to provide long descriptions.
To add Alt-text to an image on Office documents such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook:
Example of inputting alt-text:
Alt text: A person pours coffee from a silver espresso pot into a blue and white striped mug.
Image from UnSplash, credit Annie Spratt.
Users with visual impairments may miss out on information or meaning of content that is conveyed by colour. Ensuring that your elements are not using colour as the single means of conveying meaning but employing alternative ways of emphasis will help users distinguish content in their purpose. e.g., highlighting text in yellow as the only way of emphasising text will not come across to a user that is not sighted. Consider making the text bold or using an alternative solution.
Aim to make it easier for users to see your content and separate foreground from background by using colours in your text and other elements that have sufficient contrast.
To check colour contrast is sufficient:
Links will be more useful if they describe the destination in a meaningful way. Screen-reader users can skip from link to link and it is therefore important that the text is also unique. Avoid “Click here” and “Read more” which are confusing out of context and are likely to be used repeatedly. Before linking a full URL, consider whether it is simple or you want users to become familiar with it as screen-readers read it out entirely. WebAim guidance on Link Text and Appearance has more information on the readability and length of links.
Meaningful text for hyperlinks tips:
To insert meaningful hyperlink text:
The Accessibility Checker is a built-in tool available across the suite of Microsoft Office software. It can run in the background while you work, or you can launch when needed. The checker can detect accessibility errors that your content may have, help you review the issues and recommend how to fix them.
You can access the Accessibility Checker options from the dropdown menu to Check Accessibility, insert Alt Text, open the Reading Order Pane, and open Ease of Access Options.
To use the Accessibility Checker:
Like their use in other Microsoft 365 products, tables can be useful content types, though they can pose some accessibility issues when used in a non-standard or overly complex format.
Accessible tables tips:
There are a few extra steps to be considered in making a table accessible to screenreaders:
Do add a Description to the Alt-text tab by right-clicking on your table and selecting Table Properties.
Do include a Header row and First column if appropriate from the Table Design tab (with your table selected), which screen readers can use to identify cells.
Do add a Caption to the table from the References tab, and it will appear in the Table of Contents.
Complex images are a type of visual content that contain considerable amounts of information and details, more than could be conveyed by alt text alone, or just one sentence. These can be:
In cases where complex images are used, you should endeavour to include a longer description of the content alongside the alt text to fully convey the information – this practice will ensure you are meeting WCAG 2.1 success criteria. Some examples of what you can do are: