Make your information more accessible

A staff member holding a sheet of Braille Consult customers with disabilities to find out:

Use clear, user-focused language. When you’re writing information for customers, try to use words that you would use if you were talking to a customer face-to-face. Don’t assume that your customers will understand the words that you use to describe your services; try to use your customers’ words instead. Train your staff on using clear language.

Publicise the alternative formats that you can provide information in. For example, customers who would like Easy-to-Read versions of your publications might not know that you can provide them.

Make sure that relevant staff know how to get alternative formats of information. For example, you probably don’t need to print Braille versions of your publications just in case your customers ask for them. However, you do need to know how to arrange a Braille version for a customer who asks for one. Use this “Alternative formats for public information” template to record contact details, costs, timeframes, and other information that your staff will need so that they can provide your organisation’s information in alternative formats when your customers ask for them. That will allow your staff to give informed and accurate information for customers, such as “We don’t have any Braille versions of that publication now, but we can get one for you by the end of next week”, or “We can produce large print versions of that report ourselves, so we’ll have one for you by the end of this week.”

Publicise a way that your customers can give you feedback about how your organisation communicates.

Develop an Accessible Information Policy

Develop and publicise an Accessible Information Policy that says that your organisation:

  • is committed to communicating effectively with all customers
  • will train all staff on how to use clear language and structure documents correctly
  • will provide information in alternative formats when customers request it, when practicable
  • will evaluate your Accessible Information Policy regularly.

Your Accessible Information Policy should also have:

  • details of how your customers can give feedback about your information
  • contact details for your Access Officer and Inquiry Officer.

The Public Appointments Service have a good example of an Accessible Information Policy.

The Citizens Information Board produced “Accessible information for all” guidelines in 2009.

Write clearly

Use:

  • personal pronouns, such as “we”, “our”, “you”, and “your”
  • phrases with active verbs, such as “We will decide…” and “Please provide…”.
  • images that support the text
  • one sentence for each point, and one paragraph for each idea.

Avoid:

  • unnecessary words
  • jargon that the customer might not know
  • abbreviations that the customer might not know
  • non-English expressions (in English)
  • long sentences
  • inconsistency.

Present information clearly

Use:

  • clear fonts, set at 12 points or bigger
  • clear backgrounds that give good colour contrast
  • left-alignment (except for languages that read from right to left)
  • proper punctuation
  • bold text for emphasis
  • clear line-spacing, clear paragraph-spacing, and clear column-spacing
  • text to explain images and charts.

Avoid:

  • italicisation
  • underlining
  • hyphenation and justification
  • writing words in upper case letters
  • vertical text
  • outlined text
  • stretched or squashed text
  • glossy paper.

Irish Sign Language

When you publicise a public event, say that you will provide Irish Sign Language interpreters or real-time captioning if customers ask for them. Remember that some customers who need Irish Sign Language interpreters might not know that you will provide them.

Say how much notice you will need to arrange an interpreter. For example, you could say, “If you have accessibility requirements, please tell us at least 3 weeks before the conference. We need 3 weeks to arrange services such as sign language interpreters.”

You should have a policy that sets out procedures for your staff and Sign Language Interpreters, including the need for the interpreters to use an appropriate confidentiality policy when necessary.

“Easy-to-Read”

Easy-to-Read” is different to plain English. “Easy-to-Read” documents are designed for people with intellectual disabilities, people who can’t read well, and people whose first language is not English.

The Accessible Information Working Group, made up of Speech and Language Therapists who work with adults with intellectual disabilities in Ireland, published Make it Easy: A guide to preparing Easy to Read Information to describe how to create an “Easy-to-Read” document or leaflet.

The National Disability Authority’s Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies — Easy to read edition is a good example of an “Easy-to-Read” document.

If you need to create an “Easy-to-Read” document but have never created one, consider asking an expert to help you. Also, consider asking people from your target audience to test your document before you publish it.

Public computers and kiosks

Two computers on desks that are not too high. One computer has a trackball and a keyboard with large keys. The other computer has headphones. Some organisations, such as libraries and universities, provide computers for their customers to use. For example, customers can read websites in public libraries.

Some organisations, such as transport providers, provide kiosks that their customers can use. For example, customers can get tickets for trains, buses, and trams from kiosks.

Some customers with vision impairments or motor impairments might not be able to use a mouse or trackball. Some customers with vision impairments might not be able to to read information from a screen, and some customers with hearing impairments might not be able to perceive audio output from a computer. To make public computers and kiosks accessible to customers with disabilities, make sure that:

  • the hardware and software does not prevent customers with disabilities from using it
  • the area around the computer or kiosk is accessible and stable
  • your staff can answer basic questions about the accessibility of the computer or kiosk, such as “Does it have a trackball?” and “Can people with prosthetic hands use it?”.

If your organisation provide public computers, make sure that they conform to the priority 1 guidelines from the NDA’s Guidelines for Public Access Terminals Accessibility. Audit your public computers’ and kiosks’ conformance to the NDA’s Guidelines for Public Access Terminals Accessibility. There are a lot of factors involved in making sure that a public computer or kiosk is accessible, so get an expert to help if necessary. After the audit, write a plan for improving the accessibility of the public computers and kiosks.

If you can’t make your public computers or kiosks more accessible, make sure that customers can very easily find an alternative way to access the service that the public computers or kiosks provide. For example, make sure that a member of staff is available to provide tickets if your ticket kiosks have accessibility limitations. Consider alternative solutions, such text messages or emails.

Next: Make your websites more accessible