Making your information accessible

useful articles, guest blog

Making your information accessible

Jean Alcock from the Scottish Accessible Information Forum has written a guest blog about how venues can make sure their electronic and printed communications are accessible. Take a look at their top tips below.



Essential Tips

You want to tell people about your venue and what you have to offer – great food, special offers, interesting and varied activities, top class entertainment, great customer service etc.

So what do you do? Well, word of mouth is the best advertiser but you possibly also produce leaflets, posters, post regular updates on your website, register with sites such as Trip Advisor and Zomato, use social media.  Nowadays, the ways to advertise your business are endless.

But, have you ever thought that many potential customers might not be able to read or understand the information you produce, whether it’s on paper or on-screen?

There are many reasons why some people are unable understand written information for example people with learning difficulties, poor literacy or, whose first language isn’t English. There are also many people who cannot, or who find it difficult to, physically read printed information for example people with visual impairment, those with upper limb impairment or, people with dyslexia.

It is impossible for you, as a business, to know the information needs of all your customers and potential customers.  However, it possible to produce written and electronical information that is as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. The Scottish Accessible Information Forum (SAIF) provides advice, guidance and training on producing accessible information.  Here are our essential tips:

All Information

These tips apply equally to printed and on-screen information. Further information about them can be downloaded from:

  1. Use simple clear language, avoiding technical and subject specific words (jargon) as much as possible. Use short sentences and punctuation. If appropriate, use pictures that support the meaning of the text.
  2. Use good-sized print and a plain font. Fancy fonts can be confusing and small print difficult to read. Our standard is Arial Point 14.
  3. Have good contrast between text and background. In particular, avoid placing text over pictures and check that shading doesn’t make text difficult to read.
  4. Use a layout that has left, rather than centred or justified, alignment. Avoid large blocks of text, especially in upper case or italics; instead use bullet points to break up the text and make it easier to read.

These tips apply to information that is going to be printed.

  1. Print on a non-glossy paper to avoid reflections that can make it difficult to read the text.
  2. Use good quality paper, especially if printing on both sides, so that the print does not show through.

Electronic Information

All electronic information has a hidden structure.  When producing information, care needs to be taken to ensure that this structure is accessible to screen-reading software which uses it to interpret information. Screen-reading software is a vital tool for people with visual impairment and others, for example those with dyslexia.

These tips apply equally to websites, all documents for download and email attachments. Further information about all of them can be downloaded from:

  1. Use the formatting options (Styles) in your primary application, e.g. Word, to create Headings and Layout. Headings created just by highlighting and emboldening text are not recognised by screen-reading software.  Screen-reading software can create a Headings List which aids navigation through a document.
  2. Create simple tables using Table Tools rather than the “Tab” key. Complicated tables with merged and or split cells will be inaccessible.
  3. Use the Alternative Text box to describe pictures or enter data from graphs and text boxes. You might need to search ‘Help’ in your application to locate this box.
  4. Make the text for hyperlinks meaningful out of context.  Screen-reading software can create a Links List but this will be meaningless if “read more” has been used for every link.
  5. Create PDFs by using an accessible source document and clicking on the “Tagged for Accessibility” box in options. A PDF created by scanning a document will not be accessible.
  6. Enter information about your document e.g. Title and Tags in the properties section of your application. You can locate this using ‘Help’.

SAIF has 2 free online training courses covering all these aspects of producing accessible information.  You can register at:

SAIF’s Contact Details


Phone: 0141 559 5021



You can also find out more about alternative formats that you might want to consider producing in our recent blog