Skip to main content

Top tips for accessible communications

13 August 2021

Did you know that one in 10 people in the world have dyslexia? Or that one in 12 men are affected by colour blindness. And more than 460 million people have some form of hearing loss?

There are a billion people with disabilities worldwide, and the way they experience your communications is not the same. Making your content as accessible and inclusive as possible not only removes barriers for people with disabilities, but also makes the experience better for everyone.

At Sightsavers we believe that ensuring work can be understood by everyone is an essential part of all communications. So our in-house design team has put together some useful tools, resources and tips to ensure your work can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

In print and online

Check your colour contrast

Poor contrast can make it difficult for people to understand your text or diagrams. For example, light grey text on a light background would be hard to see. There are many simple online tools that can be used to check the contrast of your design. We particularly like Accessible Colors.

Include alternative text or image description

Alternative text, known as ‘alt text’, is a simple text description of a graphic, illustration, or diagram that can be used by people who cannot see the image. For example, someone with a visual impairment using a screenreader can hear the alt text read out loud, or someone who has turned off images due to a poor internet connection can read the alt text instead. For information about how to write good alt text, see WebAIM.

Check readability with an online text editor

The average reading age in the UK is nine years old (source ONS), so making your message easier to read will help you reach a broader audience. Online text editors such as Hemingway can help to simplify your message. Try it here.

Align text to the left

Centred or justified text can be difficult to read and creates uneven gaps between words. Aligning your text to the left and keeping line length to a maximum of 60 to 70 characters will make it easier to read.

Check your text size

Small text is harder to read, so as a guide, stick to at least 12pt in printed documents. If the text won’t fit into the space you have, it’s better to cut some text so the font can be kept larger, rather than reducing its size.

Avoid underlining and italics

These can be hard to read, as they can make words appear to run into each other. Try using other ways to emphasise text, such as weight or colour.

Make your digital documents accessible

Great news: your website is accessible! Bad news: the documents you link to aren’t. How easy is it to navigate the PDFs, Word files and other digital documents you have published? It’s not always an easy process, but there are training and resources out there. Our in-house design team took a course from Accessible Digital Documents (ADD) to learn how to make PDFs accessible.

Social media

Avoid emojis in text

Emojis can be fun, but not everyone sees them the same way. This is because emojis are read out by screenreaders and may not be described as expected.

So, a tweet like this:

Will be read like this:

‘We ‘clapping hands’ love ‘clapping hands’ to ‘clapping hands’ see ‘clapping hands’ it’.

If you want to use emojis (which many people with visual impairments do still use), try to place them at the end of your post and use them sparingly. A great resource to find out what each emoji is called and how a screen reader will interpret it is Emojipedia.

Capitalise each word in your hashtags

Also known as camel case, capitalising the first letter of each word makes it easier to read. #CapitaliseEachWordLikeThis

Online meetings

Make your webinars accessible

Since the start of the pandemic, the use of webinars and online collaboration has soared. But this can be a minefield for knowing what different people experience. Two great resources we use for webinars and training are AbilityNet and Web AIM: perfect for broadening your accessibility skills.

Sightsavers’ Kate Bennell has also written this handy article on the accessibility of different working platforms.

Resource: Dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility

The UK government has published posters with tips on designing for accessibility. The six posters cater to users with low vision, dyslexia, motor disabilities, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, on the autistic spectrum and those who use screen readers. You can find them all online here.

For more guidance on how to make your content accessible for everyone, visit Sightsavers’ website.

Remember that the process of inclusion is never complete: despite our achievements so far, there is always more to do and learn. We welcome thoughts and ideas from other organisations and are happy to share more details and learnings with others. Please feel free to get in touch: email design@sightsavers.org.


Look out for our piece about involving those with lived experience coming very soon.

If you liked this you may also like:

Image: Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Andrew Balchin

design and production manager, Sightsavers

Andrew is the design and production manager at Sightsavers, which prevents sight loss and promotes disability rights. He has more than 15 years of design experience and believes design should be inclusive and accessible for everyone.