Making your written and printed information accessible

Schools, faculties and services across the University produce a wide range of written and printed materials, including departmental or programme handbooks, posters, leaflets, event invitations, lecture handouts and reading lists. If a document is not well-designed, or if it is overly complex or full of jargon, then everyone finds this off-putting and difficult to understand. However, there are some groups of people who will find it particularly difficult to access written or printed materials which are badly designed.

Who will face particular barriers when accessing written and printed materials?

When you design materials, you should bear in mind the fact that:

  • People who are partially-sighted may have difficulty accessing information that is poorly-designed or produced in a small typeface. Some partially-sighted people may access materials using assistive software (such as ZoomText – a piece of software that enables users to enlarge the information presented on a computer screen) or hardware (such as a magnifier or desktop CCTV equipment). Therefore, you need to design your materials in a way that is compatible with such technology.
  • People who are blind will often require information in an alternative format (for example, braille, audio or electronic formats). This will often be on an “on request” basis, but you will need to advertise the fact that you welcome such requests, and you will also need to know what to do when you receive one. Again, blind people will often use assistive technology to access materials (for example, a screen reader package, such as Jaws, which reads out the information presented on a computer screen). Some simple adjustments to your documents will make them much easier for people to access using such technology.
  • People with specific learning difficulties (for example, dyslexia) or autism spectrum conditions (for example, Asperger Syndrome) or people whose first language is not English (for example, some international students or British Sign Language users) may find some documents difficult to access – particularly if they are full of jargon, poorly-structured or contain overly complicated sentences.

How can I make my documents accessible?

Use these good practice guidelines to help you make some simple adjustments to ensure that as many people as possible are able to read your documents.