Improving the digital accessibility of existing text ensures that you can reuse your learning support assets. In this article, I’m going to give you a list of ideas to achieve that objective, using a set of ideas presented in a previous article. In general, the content here will improve accessibility and readability for all learners.
Begin by going through the supporting content you’ve created for other learning experiences. This includes considering the places where you have used transcripts, subtitles, and captions. Look for ideas that can be repurposed to support different learners with the same skill needs. Re-write if necessary! Simplify complex language and avoid jargon. Use plain language to make the text easier to read and understand.
The basic adjustments
Add headings and semantic structure
Organize text using proper heading tags (H1, H2, H3) etc., and insert subheads to provide semantic structure. This helps screen readers and users with cognitive disabilities navigate through the content more efficiently.
Use text alternatives (alt text)
Implement text alternatives and descriptive alt text to all images, graphics, and visual elements in the text. This allows people using screen readers to understand the content and context of these non-verbal elements.
Provide transcripts and captions
For audio and video content include accurate and synchronized transcripts and captions. This ensures that users with hearing impairments can access the information provided in multimedia formats.
Add multiple font and text size options
Allow users to change font types and sizes as needed to accommodate various visual impairments. This can be achieved through menus or other interfaces that let users adjust the text settings according to their preferences.
Contrast and color considerations
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) provide the details concerning the use of color and other perceivable media in online content. Additional guidance is contained in WCAG 2.1 Understanding Docs. To summarize these requirements, designers should ensure that there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colors. This helps users with low vision colorblindness to read the text comfortably.
Check for keyboard accessibility
Ensure that all interactive elements such as buttons and links are keyboard accessible. This is critical for users who cannot use a mouse or other pointing devices due to motor disabilities.
Match the font size to the screen
Ensuring readability across different screen sizes is essential for creating a user-friendly and accessible digital experience. Here are some optimal font size recommendations for desktop monitors, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
|Screen Size||Recommended Font Size|
|Desktop Monitors||16 - 18 pixels (12-14 points)|
|Laptops||16 – 18 pixels(12-14 points)|
|Tablets (10 inch)||14 – 16 pixels (10-12 points)|
|Tablets (7 inch)||12 – 14 pixels (8-10 points)|
|Smartphones||12 – 14 pixels (8-10 points)|
Please note that these font size recommendations are approximate and may vary on factors such as font type, content, and the specific needs of your target audience. Additionally, using relative font sizes (em or percentage units) instead of fixed sizes (pixels) allows for greater flexibility and adaptability across different devices and screen sizes.
Fine-tune the font sizes. Remember to conduct user testing and gather feedback to fine-tune the font sizes for your particular website or application to meet the needs and preferences of your users effectively. The goal is to find a font size that strikes a balance between readability and aesthetics for each device. For readability of body text, the minimum recommended font size is 16 pixels (12 points). Most people can read this comfortably, even if they have visual impairments or reading difficulties. The sizes shown can be adjusted, of course.
Be careful with the details. The recommended font sizes and spacing between letters and lines can vary based on the font type, content, and the specific needs of your audience. However, there are some general guidelines for line spacing (leading) that will improve readability. For body text, start with line spacing of 1.5 to 1.7 times the font height size (in points). For headings, start with a little tighter line spacing than for body text; make sure the text remains legible.
Ultimately, the goal is to create an optimal reading experience that balances readability and aesthetics, catering to the needs of your audience and the purpose of your content.
Offer dyslexia-friendly options
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects reading, spelling, and writing skills. People with dyslexia may struggle with recognizing and manipulating letters and words, which can lead to difficulties in comprehending written text. Dyslexia-friendly fonts and spacing options can help individuals with dyslexia read your text more easily. Dyslexia-friendly options refer to specific design and formatting choices aimed at making content more accessible and readable for individuals with dyslexia.
To make content dyslexia-friendly, consider implementing the following options for text.
Make text more readable. Some fonts are designed to be more readable for individuals with dyslexia. These fonts often have clear distinctions between similar-looking letters (like "b” and "d") and use heavier bottoms on letters to help anchor them. Examples of the dyslexia-friendly fonts include OpenDyslexic and Dyslexie.
Make text scalable. If possible, use relative font sizes (em or percentage units) instead of fixed sizes (pixels) to allow users to adjust the text size according to their preferences.
Give text some room (leading). The space between lines, known as leading, is essential for readability. A line spacing of 1.5 to 1.75 times the font size is generally recommended. This helps prevent the text from feeling cramped and allows for easy reading.
Space text out (tracking). For body text, slightly looser letterspacing can enhance readability. However, be cautious not to overdo it as too much letterspacing can negatively affect readability.
A new font type may help. Serif versus sans serif. Sans serif fonts (like Arial, Helvetica, and Open Sands) are often preferred for on-screen reading as they tend to be more legible and cleaner in digital environments. However, some studies have shown that there isn't a significant difference in readability between serif and sans serif fonts. (And there are always exceptions!)
Give the text some air by chunking it. Break the content into smaller, manageable chunks. Using bullet points, headings, and shorter paragraphs can make the text less intimidating and more digestible for individuals with dyslexia.
Make the text stand out from the background. Ensure a high contrast between the text and the background to make the text easier to read. People with dyslexia may find it challenging to read text when there is insufficient contrast.
Always remember that user testing and feedback are essential for determining the most suitable font size and spacing for your specific audience. What works well for one group of users may not work for another. Additionally, factors like the complexity of the content, the reading environment, and individual choice preferences should be taken into account when making font and spatial choices for optimal readability.
These recommendations are based on typical design practices for readability and print and digital media. Ultimately, the goal is to create an optimal reading experience that balances readability and aesthetics, catering to the needs of your audience and the purpose of your content.