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Making content accessible: Guidelines for MITL staff: Accessibility tips

Guide to help staff make their content accessible to all users

About tips

These are short tips to help you improve the accessibility of our content. If you have questions about any of these, please contact Dhruti Bhagat-Conway.

Typography tip

The font size, font type, and line spacing of your content can affect how easily users can read and absorb the information.

For font size use:

  • 12 points + is recommended for emails and documents
  • 16 points + for text on webpages (like LibGuides
  • 20 points + for presentation text

For line spacing use:

  • 1.15 + line spacing is recommended for print documents
  • 1.5 + line spacing for webpages and online documents

Note: The default in most software is 1 or 1.15

There’s no single font that is better than others, but sans-serif fonts are a little easier to read, especially for dyslexic users.

Examples of sans-serif fonts: Arial, Calibri, Comic Sans, Open Sans, Tahoma, Verdana, etc.

Captioning tip

If you’re doing a video presentation, turn on captions as soon as the meeting starts. 

This means captioning will be available during the whole presentation, and a user can pull up the transcript during the call to go back and read through something they may have missed.

If you’re using the new version of Zoom, you have to turn on captions before you share your screen. The captioning controls disappear after you share your screen.

Reading level tip

Remember to check the reading level of your content. 

We aim for a grade 9 or 10 reading level for all informational and service content.

This helps:

  • Users absorb information quickly
  • Non-native English speakers
  • Users with learning and/or reading disabilities. 

Simple ways to improve reading levels:

  • Keep your words, sentences, and paragraphs short
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists where you can
  • Remove unnecessary words

We recommend using the free online version of HemingwayApp to review and revise your content's reading levels.

Accessible links tip

One way to improve accessibility is by using accessible links. An accessible link uses meaningful link text in place of the URL. This helps all users understand what the link will do but is especially helpful for screen reader users due to how they may navigate the page.

Meaningful link text means that the text of the link itself has meaning and isn’t vague, like “click here.”

Consider:

https://libraries.mit.edu/news/legal-considerations-for-your-ai-project/38256/

vs.

Click here to learn more

vs.

Learn more about legal considerations for your AI project

The last link provides the most information about where the link will take you.

Color & color contrast tip

Check your color contrast! Color contrast is how much one color stands out against another. 

Low contrast means the colors do not stand out that well against each other. Low contrast adds to eye strain and is difficult to perceive for many users with vision impairments. 

The WCAG has guidelines on recommended color contrast to avoid this problem and there are many tools you can use to check your contrast. 

Learn more about color contrast and find color contrast checkers.

Using PDFs tip

PDFs pose many accessibility challenges that are difficult to fix. For this reason, we suggest using other versions of documents that are not intended to be printed. 

  • Webpages or web forms (if the document is a form) are preferred
  • MS Word documents are also preferable to PDFs if making a webpage doesn’t make sense

Meeting agendas and notes tip

2 easy ways to make meeting agendas or notes documents more accessible are: to use list buttons and to use headings to separate sections. 

Using list buttons:

  • Do not start your lists with an * or -
    • Use the numbered or unnumbered list buttons instead

Use headings:

  • Instead of bolding text, use headings to mark your sections

Read this University of Minnestoa page for more information and visual instructions on both tips

Alternative (alt) text tip

Remember to add alternative (alt) text to your images. 

Users who cannot see an image use alt text to learn what they need from the image.

Tips for writing alt text:

  • Keep it short (think tweet length)
  • If your image has text, include that in the description
  • Do not include “image of” or “picture of”
  • Consider why you included the image and what it was meant to communicate

You can learn more about including alt text for different types of images in this Libguide.

Accessibility checkers tip

If you’re on a web page, working on a graph, presentation, or something else, there are a few tools you can download or access online to check the content: