Making your content accessible
We must provide digital content that is accessible to everyone. If you are a student or staff member, you have a vital part to play in delivering accessible content. This page helps you to shape your webpages, digital documents, and videos so that they can reach everyone.
We recommend that you become familiar with these key standards.
It is important that you also make yourself familiar with the LJMU online content style guide.
Accessibility for everyone
Good design helps everyone. The concept of accessibility does not only apply to disabled people. All users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances. Someone's ability to use a service can be affected by their:
- location - they could be in a noisy cafe, sunny park, or area with slow Wi-Fi
- health - they may be tired, recovering from an illness or accident
- equipment - they could be on a mobile phone or using an older browser
LJMU’s aim is to make everyone consider diverse needs when they design, create, and distribute digital content or services. The institution recognises that to become 100% compliant will take time. Our guidance will develop as we move forward to reach this target.
Think about your audience
Accessibility is about making sure your message is read by as many people as possible. Thinking about this from the beginning will help you make sure that nobody is excluded.
Some users use assistive technology tools such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and speech recognition. But you’ll need to consider whether you’re including other groups as well. For example, people with reduced motor skills that use the keyboard instead of a computer mouse.
The accessibility standards in this guide, and in the LJMU online content style guide, will help you address these needs.
The LJMU website has a diverse audience ranging through:
- current students
- school leavers
- parents and carers
- mature and working students
- international students and partners
- corporate business
- local community
This list is not exhaustive, and all these groups will also have individual needs.
When you have more than one audience, write clearly and concisely to make your writing as easy to read as possible. This will help to make it accessible to everyone.
How you write makes a difference to the audience. GOV.UK recommends that the reading age is 9. This is an age when most people have a primary vocabulary set of around 5,000 words, and a secondary set of around 10,000 words. These words are in everyday use.
People read the website differently to paper. Research has shown that users only read about 20 to 28% of a webpage (opens in a new window). They may not read from top to bottom, and they skip over words. The mental effort required to take in the information (cognitive load) increases 11% for every 100 words added to the page.
So how do people actually get information from the page? A website works best when people can quickly find what they need, complete their task, and move on without thinking about it too much. Good online content is easy to read and understand. It uses:
- short sentences
- sub-headed sections
- simple vocabulary
This helps people find what they need quickly and absorb it effortlessly.
You can use this to your advantage when writing content. There’s a strong argument for using words that your readers can easily recognise and understand. This is often called ‘using Plain English’. Or by some people, ‘Dumbing down’.
“It’s not dumbing down, it’s opening up.”
Government Digital Services, Cabinet Office
If you are writing content, check out the useful Hemingway Editor tool (opens in a new window). This free tool helps you to assess and edit your content and improve its readability.
Also see the ‘Front loading technique’ section on the LJMU online content style guide webpage.
Canvas and Microsoft software contain tools that check if your content is accessible. You must use these tools before publishing or sending your content to anyone.
Accessible file formats
In choosing your format you need to consider:
- the importance of the information
- the diversity of the audience
- how the information will reach your audience
The most accessible format for information delivered on the internet is HTML. That is a webpage or a Canvas page.
Search engines can find text on a HTML webpage and target your content.
A HTML webpage is responsive and will change its layout according to the device that the user is using.
Users can customise their browsers to meet their personal needs. For example, they can make their font size larger. A HTML webpage will respond and accommodate the browser settings.
To provide accessible text and content for a webpage, please make yourself familiar with the LJMU online content style guide.
Video and audio
All video and audio content released outside of the university, such as on the website, must have subtitles and closed captioning.
Please take care to use a good microphone and to check your recording levels. This will support the speech-to-text system as well as provide a clear audio recording.
Microsoft Teams is the preferred option for holding virtual team meetings and has live subtitling. For further information please make yourself familiar with:
All Panopto and Zoom recordings have automated subtitling. For further information please check:
- Panopto and Zoom: captions (opens in a new window)
- PowerPoint: live subtitles while using PowerPoint in Zoom (opens in a new window)
Digital accessibility is something that affects everyone. Good practices allow us all to find out what we want or need on the website. People read differently on the web and in digital environments than they do on paper. This means that adopting these standards will help your message reach the user. Clear, accessible content will help to engage them. And it will help them to understand your message better.
Please pass on your knowledge to staff and students to help spread good practice.
A document is sometimes called an attachment and is something that the user will download from your page to view and use. A download document is often a Microsoft document or a PDF.
Do not use a document as a short-cut to get information on to the intranet.
You must first consider if the content on a document can be presented as a web page. This is for several reasons:
- the content within a document cannot be found by the website search engine
- downloaded documents are often saved to personal desktops and reused by the user - they will not be updated when the central message is updated
- the document may not be accessible
- the document takes the user away from the web-based content and they may not be able to navigate back
The document itself is subject to all accessibility standards and must be fully accessible to all users.
If you must use a document, you must check all links to it on all webpages.
You must make sure that the documents will open with the provided software and in all the browsers.
Amend a document to update it. This is preferable to replacing it because it keeps its URL intact. This ensures that existing links are not broken.
Examples when an attachment would be appropriate include:
- a letter or a form that a user needs to print off and use as a paper document
- a poster or a leaflet that a user can print or send forward
If you must use a document with your content, please follow the guidance for ensuring the document is accessible.
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. Creating a PDF is a little like taking a photo of your document. It captures a facsimile of the document and allows you to share it with others who may not have the same fonts or software as you.
To create a PDF for a document with a simple text-based design, follow these steps:
- use the best practice examples given in the LJMU online content style guide
- export the document to PDF (opens in a new window)
- test the reflow of the document in the PDF viewer in the Menu bar choose View > Zoom > Reflow
To create a PDF document that contains a complex layout, many images and/or design elements, please follow these steps:
- use Adobe Acrobat Pro
- Please note that Acrobat Pro is only available to LJMU Staff.
- How to access Adobe Acrobat Pro (opens in a new window)
- follow the guide to create and verify PDF accessibility (opens in a new window)
- test the reflow of the document in the PDF viewer - in the Menu bar choose View > Zoom > Reflow
Microsoft file formats
Microsoft have created the immersive reader. This is built into their software to help users read more effectively. Users must have Microsoft Office and the immersive reader installed to be able to use the function.
Please follow Microsoft’s guidance when creating your Word and Excel documents.
For a live presentation:
- avoid pure white or black backgrounds and use pastel colours instead, with a dark colour for the text
- use the PowerPoint standard templates because they are already optimised for accessibility
- use at least 18-point font size for body text and larger font sizes for headings
Please watch this short video to help you create more accessible PowerPoint presentations - Guidance for creating more accessible PowerPoints (opens in a new window).
Colour contrast in attachments
See the Colour contrast guidance in the LJMU online style guide.
Consider user testing.
Testing should be done by real humans. Effective testing is done by people who are likely users of your service, and you must include disabled people and people who use assistive technology.
Consider whether you need a basic accessibility evaluation, or whether you should do a detailed evaluation instead. GOV.UK gives further information:
Using just the keyboard, try using the Tab key to navigate through the page. You should always be able to tell where you are. The focus should follow the active links in the correct order for reading the page.
Edge browser has a Read aloud function. Find this under the 3dots settings button in the top right-hand corner.
- LJMU online content style guide
- Teaching and Learning Academy accessibility statement (Canvas) (opens in a new window)
- Facilities for disabled users
- Institutional website accessibility statement
- Government guidance (opens in a new window)
- Six tips developed by the Joint Information and Services Council (JISC) (opens in a new window)
- LJMU Library student support pages for accessibility and IT
- Videos that illustrate the impact of inaccessible design on real users (opens in a new window)