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  • Writer's pictureThabo Baseki

Disability Etiquette: Make Accessible Documents


A set of colorful notebooks

In our previous article, we looked at some ways we can ensure that our language is inclusive of people with disabilities. Is there anything else we need to think about? Absolutely! We need to think for a moment about disability etiquette.


What Is Disability Etiquette, and How Can I Show It?

Disability etiquette refers to respectful ways of communicating with and about people with disabilities. This involves our tone of voice, our appearance, such as are we looking directly at them, and who are we addressing, them or the people with them? It also means ensuring that our information is accessible. To ensure a disability etiquette, you need to understand the basics and have the opportunity to learn and refresh your knowledge. This article and the next two will answer the following questions:

1. How to make documents accessible to people with disabilities?

2. How to make audiobooks that can greatly benefit blind people?

3. What should I focus on when producing audio descriptions so blind people can get as much from my videos?


Let’s get started with our first question today, how to make documents accessible.


Make Documents Accessible

Almost every day in our professional world, we deal with documentation. We read, we write, and we keep records. Our co-workers refer to this documents in order to either assist us, the client, or take on a new assignment. But the important question is, are our documents ready to be accessed by anyone at any given time? The following suggestions will aid you make your documents accessible.


Use Headings

Sounds very easy right? At times a simple task is all you need to achieve great. Heading styles play a significant role in helping blind people navigate your document. Think about this, a sighted person can easily scroll the wheel of their mouse and find the section they are interested in reading. Wouldn’t it be great to offer the same experience for people with vision impairment? If your document is divided into headings, they can simply press the H key on their keyboard, and their assistive technology such as a screen reader or a refreshable Braille display will jump them from one heading to another. To be more precise, they can use the numbers on their number row to move between headings, such as 1 to move between headings at level one. Making it even more simple, they can instruct their assistive technology to bring up a list of all headings, and with that, they can find the one they want without a struggle.


Add Alternative Text to Images

We are back to this point again. As indicated in our article on making our social media posts accessible, alternative text provides descriptions of images to blind people. If they are not provided, the screen reader may announce the metadata of an image, or its height and width. Was that your intention to have put it there? You wanted that image to serve a purpose in passing your message. Get your message to blind people by providing alternative text.


Use Lists

Just as with headings, list provides a much easier way of navigating a document. If your document has a list of steps for example, a blind person might just press the L key to jump strait to that list. Alternatively, they might evoke to bring up a listing of lists and select the want to go directly to. How timesaving!


Correctly Construct Tables

Ensure your tables have row headers. This helps the screen reader announce each column heading a blind person is navigating on. It’s better to use the simplest table structure, and in most cases, use the table to represent data.


Use Readable Fonts

Screen readers cannot read special fonts, at list at time of writing this article. Ensure that your font is easier to see. This involve the color, design, size, and more font attributes.


These are some ways you can make your document accessible to people with disabilities, but you might ask, how can I make my documents accessible if I don’t have the skills? This article links you to different resources that you will want to make friends with.


Resources

We talked about using lists earlier on. The following list provides you with links to a variety of accessibility tools. Take a look:


With the tools above, you will make your documents beneficial to everyone, including people with disabilities. This article is an example of an accessible document. It has text that is in heading styles, alternative text to graphics used, readable fonts, and the above list of useful resources.


After reading this article, are you determined to make your documents inclusive? Disability Etiquette is possible with your contribution. On our next article, let’s talk about audiobooks.

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