Creating accessible text-based resources
In the previous steps, you looked at some effective approaches to teaching that promote inclusion. It is also important to consider the resources that you are making available for learners to use. We all want to create attractive resources, but highly colourful handouts and presentations full of images and artistic fonts can be difficult to read and process effectively.
Although it won’t always be possible to adapt resources in a single way to accommodate every learner, the following guidelines will help you ensure that resources are accessible for a larger number of learners. These steps will also help make resources much easier to read and understand for all learners. As mentioned previously, it is important to talk to individual learners to find out what adaptations will help them the most.
Sans serif fonts are generally considered easier to read, and you should ideally find one with a lower-case ‘a’ that resembles how a student would write the letter. For example, Comic Sans is very accessible. The British Dyslexia Association also recommends alternatives such as Arial, Verdana, Calibri, and Century Gothic.
OpenDyslexic was designed specifically to help learners with dyslexia, and may be useful. You can download the font from opendyslexic.org. Some people find it much easier to read, but it doesn’t suit everyone.
Make text at least size 12 or 14pt in documents, and 24pt in presentations. Avoid using italics, underline, and text all in capitals; use bold for emphasis if necessary.
Break up blocks of text with paragraphs, bullet points, titles, and subheadings. This will help learners retain what they read and find key information more easily. If you are using Microsoft Word and Google Docs, use the built-in style tools for different text elements (e.g. ‘Title’, ‘Heading 1’, ‘Subtitle’). This makes it easier for learners, in particular those using screen readers, to navigate and understand documents.
For help with using styles in Microsoft Word, watch this video:
This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.
For help with using styles in Google Docs, watch this video:
This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.
Ensure that there is plenty of white space around titles and between paragraphs. Left-aligned text is easiest to read; fully justifying text creates uneven gaps between words. Increasing line spacing also helps with readability: 1.5 spacing is ideal.
Use plain English. Keep technical language to a minimum, and teach vocabulary in advance where possible. Be careful with the use of jargon and metaphors, as these can be harder to understand. Keep sentences short to assist with understanding, and try not to use the passive voice. (‘The poster is to be planned out on paper first’ is a passive construction. The active form is ‘You should plan out your poster on paper first’. As a rule, if you can add ‘by robots’ to the end of the sentence, it is in the passive voice.)
“A poster is to be designed aimed at Key Stage 1 pupils to help them understand the importance of recycling rubbish in order to help the environment.”
“Design a poster for Key Stage 1 pupils. It is to help them understand the importance of recycling rubbish in order to help the environment.”
Don’t use colour as the only indicator of meaning (for example, identifying code blocks in Scratch according to colour) as it may be confusing for a learner who is colour-blind.
Ensure that there is plenty of contrast between the background colour of a document or slide and the text. You can experiment with combinations using this tool. Many learners with dyslexia prefer a non-white background — try using a pastel colour instead. Avoid patterned backgrounds and non-essential images.
Accessible by design
It is valuable for learners to consider best practice and accessibility when they are creating digital content and tools for other people to use. Look for opportunities to teach this as part of digital media creation or games design. When teaching about website design (or simply investigating web-based content), consider the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines together and discuss why these are important. Ask learners to create a simplified version of the list to refer to when building their own sites.
Investigate accessibility settings in games with your class — what features are not accessible, and how can they be mitigated? When designing their own games, learners could add a section to their plan on accessibility considerations.
Following these simple guidelines will make your resources much more accessible to learners in your class.
Click here to create a copy of this Google Docs file. Edit it to make it more accessible, according to the guidelines above.
Post a link to your edited version in the comments. Also, share any other adaptations that you use to make resources more accessible.