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How do I create an accessible document?

Documents are one of the main resources created to support both academic and professional staff. Creating good accessible documents is essential as these are a crucial means of communicating information to staff and students, including internal communications, publicity materials, Programme Handbooks, Module Guides, Assessment Information, other teaching and learning documents, and more.

For a full tutorial on the most common accessibility issues, please access the Accessibility Checklist and Tutorial.

What are the rules to follow:

  • Use styles to indicate the title, subtitle, and section headings in all documents.
  • Add a header and footer to all pages and include page numbers.
  • Font size and style should be easy to read.
    • Use 12 point fonts for close viewing and larger sizes (14-18) for distance.
    • Use Arial, Calibri, Lucida Grande, or other sans-serif font.

Glossary of Terms

  • Styles: Styles indicate the different ways that text is rendered on a screen. Screenreaders and other softwares use these styles to indicate when text has been marked as ‘bold’ or as a ‘Title’ or ‘Heading’.
  • Section Headings: There are several levels of headings that are used as built-in styles for various word processing programs. These operate like an outline with Heading 1 followed by Heading 2, and so forth.
  • San-Serif Font: These are more simple fonts that have wider spacing and lack the extra strokes called ‘serifs’ which add flair to letters and can make letters look joined-up.

Is there a template I can use?

You can create new templates and make changes to document templates in most word processing programmes. These templates can then be used to create new documents without having to change the settings each time.

Accessible template for Microsoft Word

  1. Click on the Oxford Brookes accessible document template link.
  2. Depending on your browser, the download will either start automatically or you may be shown a ‘Preview’ screen.
  3. If you are shown a preview, click on the download icon to download the file to your computer.
  4. After you have downloaded the file, find the file in your computer using File Explorer or Finder.
  5. Right click the document and click ‘Open’ in the dropdown menu.
  6. Click the yellow ‘Enable editing’ box at the top of the screen.
  7. In the Styles section of the ribbon, click on the small down arrow icon in the bottom right to open the Styles menu.
  8. Click options and then select ‘New documents based on this template’.
  9. Click Ok.

You can also make bespoke changes to the Normal template (Normal.dotm) which will affect all new documents.

Accessible template for Google Docs

Accessible Google Doc template (light background)

Accessible Google Doc template (dark background)

  1. In order to access the above templates, you must first log in to your Brookes Google account.
  2. Click on the link to the template you would like to use (you will be asked to make a copy of the document).
  3. Click ‘Make a Copy’ (this will open a copy of the document and save it to your Google Drive).
  4. Click on File/Move to organise the file in your Google Drive so you can find it later.

To apply this template to apply to all future documents you create in Google Docs:

  1. Select ‘Format’
  2. Choose ‘Paragraph styles’ then select ‘Options’
  3. Cick ‘Save as my default styles’.

For more information on applying styles in a Google Doc, see Google Support.

What are the benefits to following these rules?

Meeting Legal Requirements: You will meet the legal requirements set out by The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 and the Equality Act (2010) which serve to protect students with disabilities from disability and provide rules on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications.

Other Benefits to Teaching and Learning:

  • Using Styles will create an easy to follow and easy to print outline.
  • Headers and Footers will make documents easy to identify.
  • Page numbers make it easier to flip through long documents.
  • Using a larger font size will make documents easier to read and reduce eye strain.
  • Sans serif fonts will read the same on more operating systems.
  • Simpler fonts will increase the readibility of documents for individuals with special learning difficulties and those with low vision or other visual impairments.

What about PDFs?

Once you have created an accessible document, you can then save a PDF copy.

You must use save to PDF, and not Print to PDF. The Print to PDF option only makes what amounts to an image that cannot be read by a screen reader. Saving to PDF does keeps your formatting though in some cases may change some fonts and spacing.

Where can I find step-by-step guidance?

In the Digital Accessibility Guidelines Moodle course, there is a section dedicated to supporting you in evaluating documents for accessibility. Once you have completed the course, revisit individual sections via the links below.

Updated on July 28, 2023

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