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Why accessible communications?
This document provides standards to help government communicators build accessibility into all communication activities across all channels and formats.
Accessible communication ensures everyone has the same access and opportunity to read publications, use websites, attend events, respond in emergency situations and find out about government policies and programs.
To do this well, you need to be aware of the diverse range of needs in the community and how to plan your communications with accessibility in mind.
There are over 1 million people living with a disability in Victoria; that’s around 20% of the population.
Slot gamePeople can have a disability from birth, disease, illness or accident. Disabilities can also be temporary. Many of us will develop impairments as we age.
Slot gameIn these guidelines ‘people with a disability’ refers to people who have an impairment that affects their physical, mental, intellectual or sensory functions. This may mean they encounter barriers to accessing information.
You should also consider the communication needs of people:
- recovering from accidents or illness
- with chronic health issues
- who are ageing
- with English as a second language or who have low literacy
It is both a legal obligation and a human right for people with disabilities to be able to access information, services and opportunities offered through government programs.
Legislation and policy priorities
Slot gameLegislation at both state and commonwealth levels protects the rights of people with disabilities:
The commits every Victorian Government department to making mainstream systems more responsive to people with a disability, their families and carers.
Plan upfront for alternative formats
You should always consider accessibility when planning your communications.
Your communications should be easy to understand and available in alternative formats.
Slot gameInvolve disabled people from your audience in developing and reviewing a strategy for producing information in accessible formats. They will know their needs and could help you find the most effective ways of meeting them. You can also approach disability organisations for advice.
Slot gameReduce the need for accessible format versions
Slot gameKeep it simple:
- write in plain English to Grade 8 level or below
- make it as concise as possible
- use headings to ‘signpost’ the information
- use short paragraphs
- design it to be as legible as possible, for example using a minimum 14-point text size
If your initial document follows these principles it will already be accessible to a greater number of people without needing to create an additional version, thus saving time and money.
This principle promotes you to think about users with different abilities. For example, avoid segregating or stigmatising users who may be colour blind by using strong colour contrast.
Consider font size and type
Maximise legibility of essential information.
Careful with colour
Slot gameProvide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
Format with care
Allow for flexibility – the flexibility in use principle encourages flexible, adaptable and/or customisable design. It lets the users choose how they will accomplish a task. When you provide choices for your users, they will feel more free and more in control of their experience with your information.
Alternative formats for a range of abilities
- Large print – typically a minimum 16-point font size is used, but this can be customised to suit individual requests
- Audio – audio file, CD or podcast. This format is most useful if the information can be read from beginning to end without needing to refer to other parts of the document
- Braille – a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. When preparing information to be converted to braille, keep the document layout as simple as possible for easier transcription
- Easy English – is a simplified form of plain English that is used for written information. Easy English is helpful for people with a cognitive or intellectual disability or low English language literacy levels
- AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) interpreting, videos with captions, and/or audio description
Slot gameFor targeted communication, you should determine the particular needs of your audience and the most effective method to reach them.
Clear and inclusive language
The language we use is important, for both audience reach and ensuring people with a disability are included and represented in a positive way. The key considerations are:
- always put the person first, not the disability
- use plain English (everyday words and short, concise sentences) or Easy English (conveying information using pictures and short sentences) to help convey your message
Accessibility requirements for websites are mandated under government policy, legislation, and through whole-of-government commitments.
Slot gameThe Australian Government has endorsed the for all government websites.
At a minimum, all Victorian Government websites are required to conform with the Level AA WCAG 2.1 standard.
Where the audience is primarily people with disability, it’s required that government websites meet the Level AAA (Triple A) standards, which are the highest accessibility standards.
All policy statements, strategies, reports or documents should be produced in accessible formats.
Other documents should be available in accessible formats upon request.
Slot gameAn accessibility statement provides standard and consistent wording to inform those with a disability that accessible formats, support and aids are available upon request.
Slot gamePublications, event invitations and websites should include an accessibility statement offering support.
Avoid naming an individual as a contact point. Instead try to use URLs, email addresses and phone numbers that will remain current for the life of the document or website.
This is an example of an accessibility tag for publications, which you can include in your documents or publications:
Slot gameContact us if you need this information in an accessible format such as large print or audio, please telephone (insert standard departmental telephone) or email (insert departmental email address).
Slot gameThis document can also be found in (....for example, HTML or PDF) formats on our website (www. insert departmental website .vic.gov.au).
Slot gameBelow is an example of an accessibility tag for events, which may be included in your event invitations:
Slot gameWe aim to ensure that people have equal access to public events.
If you need alternative formats or other reasonable adjustments, please contact (name of person) on (telephone number) or via email: (email address here) with your request by close of business on (deadline) so that arrangements, where possible, can be made.
HTML is the default format for all government information as part of a "digital first" approach.
Slot gameYou should aim to create the HTML format as the main priority. The vic.gov.au website now has a .
Slot gameIf there is a strong user need to provide a PDF (for example for printing) the document must still be
PDFs are not accessible on mobile devices
Slot gameOn mobile devices, PDFs do not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 due to a lack of support for document structure.
Slot gamePeople can only use assistive technologies to read PDFs if they are using a desktop or laptop device.
PDFs are also difficult for many users to access on smaller screens as they don’t resize and reformat to fit the screen (reflow).
People can also be aware of how much data they use – especially on mobile devices. Downloading large files (over 1MB) can be difficult especially in regional and remote places.
Slot gameUsers may simply choose not to open a PDF and this means information is hidden.
Structure PDFs logically
To make a PDF accessible you must make sure structural elements such as headings are marked-up so that a screen reader can follow the logical order of the content. This is called the structural hierarchy.
Guidance on how to structure PDFs:
- - W3C
- - W3C
- - Adobe
- - Adobe
Make it clear you’re linking to a PDF file
Slot gameUse the link to tell your users that they are downloading a PDF and how big it is.
Offer an alternative format to PDF
Provide a contact (an email address) so users can request the information in a different format.
If you are relying on PDF as the accessible format, then the document needs a HTML landing page. The landing page should contain an overview of the document and outcomes, as relevant.
Checklist: preparing accessible publications
The following is a guide on things to consider when preparing Word documents and PDF files – both printed and digital versions to be uploaded online.
|Topics and questions||Yes||No|
|Minimum type size of 12 point or 16 point is recommended for people with a visual impairment.||□||□|
|Brand Vic font or plain fonts used, such as Arial. (These are often described as ‘sans serif’ - without small curls or decorative features.)||□||□|
|No blocks of text written in capital letters – information is easier to read if it is written using a mix of upper and lower case.||□||□|
|Lots of white space and a simple layout.||□||□|
|Bold text used for emphasis rather than underlining or italics.||□||□|
|Margins justified on the left-hand side and right-hand margin left unjustified.||□||□|
|Contrasting colours used to increase readability – for example, black text on a white background is preferable.||□||□|
|No text placed over pictures, photos or other images, as this makes the text hard to read.||□||□|
|When providing a link to a PDF document, the PDF must be . Also provide an alternative accessible format such as HTML.||□||□|
|Limit the use of tables and try to use bullet points where possible, for better visibility and for people with low literacy. Where tables are used, design the content so that it is suitable for screen reading software – for example, by formatting rows with headings as heading rows||□||□|
|Accessibility tag included in publication to let readers know other formats are available and how to obtain them via telephone, email or website.||□||□|
|Use cream or off-white non-glossy paper to reduce glare.||□||□|
|Use uncoated paper weighing over 90gsm (photocopy paper usually weighs 80gsm). If the text is showing through from the reverse side, the paper may be too thin.||□||□|
|Very large or very small documents can be difficult to handle. A4 size is generally the most user-friendly.||□||□|
Standards for easy-to-read information
About these standards
Standards are a list of rules and examples which help people to do things in the right way and in a consistent way.
What are these standards about?
Slot gameThese standards are to help people make their information easy to read and understand. People from different organisations have contributed to the development of these standards.
Who can use these standards?
Anyone who wants to make information easy to read and understand can use the standards. However, some of the standards can be hard to understand.
So people with intellectual disabilities might need the help of a support person when they read them for the first time.
These standards were made to make information easy for people with intellectual disabilities to understand.
But these standards can also be useful to make information easy for many other people to understand. For example:
- people who do not have English as a first language
- people who find it difficult to read
Why do we need these standards?
- people with disabilities can find it harder to understand things and to learn new things
- but they can do a lot in life if they get the right support. It’s important for people with disabilities to have information that is as clear and as easy to understand as possible
- good information helps people find out what they need to know. It helps them to make their own choices and decisions
- the Convention of the United Nations is about the rights of disabled people. In article 9, this Convention says that people with disabilities have a right to receive accessible information
- accessible information means making information easy to read and understand
- to do this well, you have to follow standards. Standards are a list of advice which helps people to do things in the same way and in the right way
- these standards will tell you how to make information easy to understand, whatever the format of information you are making
Note: If you want to know more about people with intellectual disabilities, you can ask questions and get information from one of the organisations listed under the Organisations and Resources section.
Standards for easy-to-understand information
Before you start producing your information
- always find out as much as you can about the people who will use your information and about their needs.
- choose the best format for your information. For example, information on a video or animation may be better for some people than written information.
- remember that the people who will use your information might not know much about your subject. Make sure you explain the subject clearly and explain any difficult words to do with the subject.
- use easy to understand words that people will know well
- do not use difficult words
- if you need to use difficult words, make sure you always explain them clearly
- use examples to explain things. Try to use examples that people will know from their everyday lives
- use the same word to describe the same thing throughout your document
- do not use difficult ideas such as metaphors. A metaphor is a sentence that does not actually mean what it says. An example of a metaphor is “it is raining cats and dogs.”
- avoid using initialisms. Use the word in full where possible. Initialisms are making a word from the first letter of every word in a phrase. If you have to use initials, explain them. For example, if you write “EU”, explain that it stands for the European Union.”
- keep the punctuation simple. For example, do not write: “Yesterday, I bought a green/yellow bike (a new one!) for my son – whose name is Michael.” Instead, write “My son’s name is Michael. Yesterday, I bought a new bike for him. The new bike is green and yellow."
- avoid all special characters where possible, like \, &, <, or #
- always start a new sentence on a new line
- always keep your sentences short
- speak to people directly. Use words like “you” to do this
- use positive sentences rather than negative ones where possible. For example, say: “You should stay until the end of the meeting” rather than “You should not leave before the end of the meeting."
How to order your information
- always put your information in an order that is easy to understand and follow
- group all information about the same topic together
- it’s OK to repeat important information
- it’s OK to explain difficult words more than once
Standards for written information
Design and format
- use a format this is easy to read, follow and photocopy. For example, A4 or A5
- never use a background that makes it difficult to read the text. For example, never use a picture or a pattern as a background
- be careful when using a dark background. When you do that, make sure the background is dark enough and the writing clear enough for you to read it
- always use a font that is clear and easy to read.
- a font is a type of writing, for example Arial or Tahoma are clear and easy to read fonts.
- this means you should never use serif fonts. These fonts are harder to read because the shape of the letters is not as clear. Here is an example:
Reviewed 10 December 2019