Producing documents with accessibility in mind means ensuring your content can be read and understood by the widest possible audience. This is not only important in order to comply with the government's web accessibility regulations but also to continue the University's commitment to providing education to all.
Here you'll find some helpful guidance about how to use the University's branded templates, which have already been formatted to aid accessibility. The guidance focuses predominantly on what is required when producing Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, but much of this advice can also be applied to other programmes.
If you're creating a document with the intention of publishing it online, please also ensure you've read our guidance on the use of documents online (staff login required). If you're considering producing a designed digital PDF, please also read our guidance on accessibility when getting something designed before embarking on this work. In most cases, documents are not suitable for online audiences.
Text and formatting
The University’s marketing team provides a branded Word document template that has already been formatted to aid accessibility. It features:
- an accessible, on-brand, sans serif font (Arial) at an adequate size (12pt for paragraph text)
- title, heading and paragraph styles (which help screen readers identify the main headings in a document, allowing visually impaired readers to skip to the content they’re interested in without having to have the entire document read to them)
- 1.5 line spacing
- example text that adheres to the University’s editorial style (which features many rules that aid accessibility as well as brand consistency)
- an example table, which has been specifically formatted to aid those using assisted technologies
When using these Word document templates, you may not need some of the features provided, for example the table, so feel free to delete what you don’t need.
Structure is essential for those using assisted technologies, such as screen readers, who rely on properly formatted headings to navigate documents. Without this structure, it is very difficult for them to navigate a document as it will be read as a single long section of text.
The University’s branded Word document templates already have these heading styles in place, but you need to ensure you’re using them properly.
Think about what structure your document needs – it will likely have one main heading, but it may also need several levels of sub headings.
- If you only need one main heading, use Heading 1.
- If you need one main heading and several sub-headings that all have equal importance, use Heading 1 for the main heading and Heading 2 for the sub-headings.
- If you need one main heading, several sub-headings and then additional sub-headings within those, use Heading 1 (main heading), Heading 2 (first level of sub-headings) and Heading 3 (second level of sub-headings).
Here is an example:
[Heading 1] Undergraduate courses
[Heading 2] School of Art, Architecture and Design
[Heading 3] Architecture
[Heading 3] Art
[Heading 3] Design
[Heading 2] School of Human Sciences
[Heading 3] Biosciences
[Heading 3] Chemistry
[Heading 3] Dietetics and sports
Each category of heading often has a different font size. The more important the heading, the larger the font, but these headings aren’t just defined by their font size – they are specifically formatted within the styles pane of Microsoft Word. This can be accessed in the Word’s “Home” tab. In order to format your headings correctly, highlight the text you want to become your heading, click on the styles pane and select the heading type you want to use. Please note, in order for your headings to look as they should, you must be using the University’s branded template.
There are a number of other important accessibility rules that you also need to consider when formatting your text:
Links are often read by screen readers in isolation of the text around them. This is to help visually impaired people access the information they’re interested in as quickly as possible – the equivalent to a sighted user scanning a document for any links they may find useful. If including links in your document, there are a number of rules you need to follow to ensure your links are accessible:
- Make sure the text that is linked is an accurate description of what information the link leads to. For example, read the University’s latest strategy. If you wish, you can also link the whole phrase “read the University’s latest strategy” so that is acts as a call to action.
- Avoid linking phrases such as “click here” or “this link” as these give no indication of the information you will find at this link when read in isolation.
- For documents that will only be accessed digitally, you should not include any urls (instead, add a text link such as the example above). If you expect the document to be printed, you can add urls but make sure these are as short as possible and do not include the https://www. prefix. Please contact the marketing team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like advice on how to shorten long urls.
- Links must use a colour that has at least a 4.5:1 contrast with the background colour of your document and also a 3:1 contrast between the link text colour and your standard font colour. We recommend you use the same link text colour as we use on our website, which has the hex code #415dec. You can select this colour by highlighting your link text in Microsoft Word, clicking on the arrow alongside the Font Colour function, selecting More Colours, clicking on the second option along the top (an image of three sliders) and then selecting RGB Sliders. There is then a field for the hex colour, where you can add 415dec. Please note, your link text also needs to have another differentiating factor in addition to colour. Microsoft Word often defaults to underline for all link text, so if it does this you will have met link text accessibility standards.
It is important that all information we publish is easy to understand. Bear in mind that some people find reading more difficult than others so try to use simple, concise language where you can. The Hemingway app is a useful resource to find out how complex your wording is and will highlight any sentences that are difficult for people to understand.
It is important you think carefully about what colours you use in a document. Some colour combinations prove problematic for those with colour vision deficiencies. Follow these rules to ensure your colour combinations are accessible:
- Avoid green/red, blue/purple and light green/yellow.
- Avoid using colour alone to convey meaning – for example, don’t signpost by saying “click on the green button” (not everyone will know it is green) and consider using another design element to aid meaning. For example, a line graph using a combination of lines comprised of dots, dashes, squares etc, and don’t rely on colour, will ensure those with colour vision deficiencies can still interpret the information in the graph, particularly when the graph relies on a key.
- Ensure there is an appropriate contrast between your background and foreground colour. The contrast ratio must be at these 4.5/1 for digital documents. To ensure you’re using an appropriate contrast ratio, use one of the colour combinations in the University’s brand guidelines.
Whenever you add an image to your document you will be given the option to add image alternative (alt) text. Similar to link text, which describes the link on your page, image alt text describes an image for those who can’t see it. In Microsoft Word, you can add image alt text by right clicking on the image and selecting "Edit alt text". Your image alt text should be an accurate description of what is depicted and should adhere to the following rules:
- Do not include “Photo of” or “Image of” – the screen reader will identify that it is an image automatically.
- Avoid using images that feature text – where it is necessary to do this, eg for a graph or a diagram, ensure you include comprehensive image alt text and, if necessary, also include a text interpretation of the diagram on the page.
- If an image is purely for decorative purposes, eg a coloured banner, you can mark it as “Decorative” using the tick box provided and the screen reader will ignore it.
You can find examples of good (and bad) image alt text in our web accessibility presentation (staff login required).
Useful resources for ensuring Word document accessibility
- Microsoft Word’s accessibility checker allows you to test whether your document complies with accessibility standards.
- WebAIM’s contrast checker allows you to check whether your colour combination meets accessibility standard (but remember, if producing documentation for the University, your colours must also be on brand).
- The Hemingway app allows you to identify areas where you text can be simplified and made easier to read.
Many of the features required by Word documents also apply to PowerPoint presentations so please make sure you’ve also read the guidelines for Word documents above.
To ensure your PowerPoint presentation is accessible, please adhere to the following guidelines:
- Always use Arial as your font – it is recommended you use a large font size and don’t crowd your slides with too much information. Leaving white space and formatting text in digestible chunks will help your readers absorb the information more easily.
- Give every slide a unique title. The branded University template already has titles styled for you so all you need to do is add your title text.
- Include alternative (alt) text for any images you insert (you can read more about alt text in our guidance on Word documents).
- If adding links, ensure you add appropriate link text (you can read more about appropriate link text in our guidance on Word documents).
- Ensure that you’re using a suitable colour combination for your text and background – find out about suitable brand colour combinations.
- Use the Accessibility Checker in the Review tab to ensure your document is accessible. As part of this you will need to make sure the content of your slides will be read in the correct order. You will need to do this for each individual slide. Check the order your slide content is being read in by clicking on the arrow alongside each slide underneath the reading order warning (PC) or by going to Arrange > Reorder objects on the top menu (Mac).
Below you will find video tutorials that take you through how to use the University's PowerPoint templates on PC and Mac. If using a Chromebook, please follow the instructions for PC and access PowerPoint through Remote Labs.
Download a template
Before starting work on a Word document or PowerPoint presentation, please ensure you've downloaded the relevant template from our logo files and templates.