Making your content accessible
We have a legal obligation to provide digital content that is accessible to everyone.
‘Accessibility’ is an approach that starts at the concept of creating material for the web. 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.
Guidance for creating and publishing web content
This guidance helps you to understand when it is appropriate to use different file formats, and how to make them accessible.
Internet and accessibility standards are continually developing so this guidance is a work in progress. We recommend that you return regularly to this page to keep your knowledge up-to-date.
This guidance is part of a series of guides. It is important that you also make yourself familiar with the:
Accessibility for everyone
Good design helps everyone. The concept of accessibility does not only apply to disabled or neurodiverse 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. Such as, people with reduced motor skills and use the keyboard instead of a computer mouse, or colour-blind people, or people with dyslexia. These are amongst many needs that we must consider.
Even moving from a desktop to a mobile to view the website has accessibility standards to meet. The text and content must reflow to fit any device and remain in a logical reading order.
The accessibility standards in this guide, and in the Web 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, we must write clearly and concisely to make your writing as easy to read as possible. We must provide documents and formats that are accessible to all. This will help to make the LJMU website accessible to everyone.
How you write makes a difference to the audience. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend that the reading age is lower secondary level. This means we require a reading age of around 12. 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. World-leading research has shown that users only read about 20 to 28% of a webpage. 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 online Hemingway Editor tool. This free tool helps you to assess and edit your content and improve its readability.
Also see the ‘Front loading technique’ section on the Web content style guide webpage.
You will find further information about reading ages in the 'Reading age' section on the Web content style guide webpage.
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 Web content style guide.
Accessible documents and attachments
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.
use a document as a short-cut to get information on to the intranet.
Documents do not take the user's needs or journey into account.
You must first consider if the content on a document can be presented as a web page. This is because a webpage:
- meets the legally required accessibility regulations
- is responsive on different devices
- contains content that is searchable and can be found by your user through search engines
Content provided as an attachment is disadvantaged because:
- the document takes the user away from the web-based content and they may not be able to navigate back
- 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 content within a document cannot be found by the website search engine
- the document may not be accessible
- the document is not responsive
Examples when a document would be appropriate include:
- a letter 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 have considered the content and still feel that an attached document is appropriate, please provide the reasoning with the request to upload it.
Important steps to follow
If a document is unavoidable, the individual document is subject to all accessibility standards. You are responsible for the content of the document and ensuring that the document is suitable for the website.
- ensure that the document is fully accessible to all users - see the 'Accessibility checker' section in this guide
- provide the final and accurate draft of your document only
- check all links to it on all web pages and inform the Web Content Team of any links that need to be removed or updated
- make sure that the documents will open with the provided software and in all the browsers
Advice for Sitecore editors: Only replace a document to update it and keep its URL intact. This is preferable to replacing it with a new version and will prevent existing links from being broken.
Colour contrast in attachments
See the Colour contrast guidance in the Web content style guide.
Forms as attachments
Please see the ‘Accessible Forms’ section.
We discourage using Word document, PDF or other formats for individual forms, and recommend that Microsoft Forms are used.
In exceptional circumstances, we may consider Word, PDF or other formats. If you feel you have a strong business case for using Word, PDF or other formats, then please contact the Web Content Team. However, the file that you provide must be both fully accessible and usable.
Microsoft Forms have benefits for both the user and the team that creates and manages the form. These include:
- they are easy to create
- easy to complete and submit
- the form is accessible, and Microsoft will continue to improve and stay up-to-date with accessibility regulations
- Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is automatically included
- each form collates its responses
- the forms and responses are held centrally within your own Teams space and can be shared within your team, or protected for privacy
- the responses can be exported to Excel if you need to pull out results and analyse them
- there are various types of questions and form fields to use, including the ability to upload attachments
- you can use branching – this will guide the user to the next question depending on their answer – for example, answer ‘Yes’ and the form will carry on to the next question, or answer ‘No’ and the form will jump to the next appropriate question
- the form cannot be altered by the user, and is consistent for all users
- mandatory questions must be completed, or the form will not progress or submit
- the form can be viewed and completed on any device (mobile, desktop or tablet) and will resize and reflow itself without losing any content or functionality
How to use Microsoft Forms
Visit the Microsoft Forms help and learning pages in the Microsoft 365 support website.
Accessibility checker – Microsoft software
Microsoft software contain tools that checks if your content is accessible. You must use these tools before publishing or sending your content to anyone.
Please follow the Web content style guide when you are writing and creating your content. This gives you guidance and best practice examples for writing accessible content.
Word, Excel and PowerPoint file formats
Word, Excel and PowerPoint all have an inbuilt Accessibility checker within the software. When you are satisfied that your draft is complete and signed off, check the document’s accessibility by selecting:
- Check for issues
- Check Accessibility
The Accessibility tool will open and will tell you if you have any issues that need resolving. Select each issue and the tool will tell you how to fix it.
Word: Visit Microsoft's guidance to make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities
Excel: Visit Microsoft's guidance to make your Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities
PowerPoint: Visit Microsoft's guidance to make your PowerPoint documents accessible to people with disabilities
Before you save your Microsoft file as a PDF
Only save your Microsoft file as a PDF when you are satisfied that the Microsoft file is fully accessible.
If you update the Microsoft file, you will need to check its accessibility again.
See the ‘Accessibility checker – PDF files’ section for tips to help you make your PDF file accessible.
Microsoft Immersive Reader
Microsoft have created the Immersive Reader. This is built into their software to help users read more effectively. Users will need to have Microsoft Office and the immersive reader installed to use the function.
Presentation PowerPoint files
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.
Accessibility checker – PDF Files
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.
Even though you will have already checked the accessibility of the original document, you must check the accessibility of the PDF after you have converted the document.
We recommend that you use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. You can download this on to LJMU computers via:
- LJMU Application Player
- Adobe Creative Cloud
To create an accessible PDF, follow these steps:
- Create your content in your chosen document (such as Word) following the best practice examples given in the Web content style guide.
- Make sure the document is fully accessible.
- Save the document as a PDF by:
- selecting ‘Acrobat’ option in the toolbar
- selecting ‘Create PDF’
- Use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to open and check your PDF.
- Select the Accessibility tool icon. You will find this in 'Tools'
- You can save the Accessibility tool to the short cut panel by selecting: Add Shortcut.
- Select Accessibility Check.
- Select Start Checking.
- The results will appear in a pane on the left-hand side of your screen.
- Any issues will be shown.
- Right click on the issue for options to fix or pass the issue, and to get an explanation of the issue.
- Use the Reading Order panel to group and define content.
- Save your accessible PDF
This free online ‘How to make PDFs accessible’ webinar has many useful tips for converting your raw PDF into an ordered and accessible document. The webinar is 1 hour 10 minutes long.
Microsoft's guide to creating and verifying PDF accessibility.
Accessibility checker – Canvas
Canvas is the web-based learning management system that we use for digital learning.
Accessible 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.
Videos added to the website must not contain text or a visual representation of text and data without captioning, subtitles, or the information being added to the main page content.
Other video formats
Occasionally, other video formats can be recorded and added to the website. These must conform to all accessibility regulations.
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:
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. The text of the links should describe the action or destination of the link.
Edge browser has a Read aloud function. Find this under the 3dots settings button in the top right-hand corner.
- LJMU web content style guide
- University's website accessibility statement
- Teaching and Learning Academy accessibility statement (Canvas)
- LJMU facilities for disabled users
- Government guidance
- Six tips developed by the Joint Information and Services Council (JISC)
- LJMU Library student support pages for accessibility and IT
- Videos that illustrate the impact of inaccessible design on real users (W3C)
Session notes and assets
From time to time, we provide sessions and demonstrations to support the guidance. The notes and supporting documents for these sessions can be found on the Session notes and assets page.
We will update the Session notes and assets page in line with developing the website, so please check it regularly to keep up to date.
Web Content Community messages
Emails that we send to the Web Content Community are stored in the Web Content Community Hub Teams group.