AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


Top Ten Tips 

Not sure where to begin with making your communications more accessible? Follow the guidelines below to ensure you have most basis covered and explore further pages as you progress on your efforts in accessibility.   

1.   Use CamelCase Hashtags

To create a CamelCase hashtag, please capitalise each word in a phrase. For example, #ThisIsAVeryLongHashtag, not, #thisisaverylonghashtag. Using CamelCase hashtags allows anyone using a screen reader, including blind people, to understand your hashtags.

2.    Always Offer Captions

Promotional videos for SUs, clubs and societies should all include captioning. Any video posted on your official channels should reflect this expectation. When you are screening movies or videos you must put on subtitles. They are available for all legal means of viewing movies, including renting movies on YouTube if they aren’t available elsewhere.

What do different terms for captioning mean?

Subtitles are provided for all movies and TV series on popular streaming platforms. They are taken from the screenplay script and are most accurate. Anytime you are showing a professional video, you should enable the subtitles for people who are Deaf or have auditory processing  issues. 

Closed Captions are for live meetings and virtual events. They are available for all viewers, but each viewer has the option to have them on or off. Auto-captioning is available on Zoom, this is closed captioning, meaning you can enable this service by pressing the "CC" button, and turn it off the same way. While auto-captioning is helpful, there can be issues with inaccuracies, most especially if your speakers have strong accents. If it is the case that you know you will have attendees who would benefit from captioning at your event, ideally, you would book a live captioner for superior accuracy. 

Open Captions are the least preferred captioning option. Open captions make the captions mandatory viewing for all attendees, unlike in Zoom, you cannot opt out of closed captions. Some people find subtitles opt captions distract them, so if possible it is best to offer them the choice to view without. In a situation where you are screening publicly, such as a movie night, it is important to use subtitles or captions. This is because while some people find them a hinderance or a distraction, others cannot view the movie at all without the audio transcribed.  

3.    Ensure all Images include Alternative (Alt.) Text

Alt text ensures people using screen readers, such as blind people, will be able to access the visual information in your document without having to view the image. Alt text is also helpful for people with autism to provide extra context. People with English as a foreign language and people with learning difficulties can also benefit from them.

Illustrative Images 

Images that set the context of the document or otherwise are there to add information to the document, must be given alt. Text. Start your alt text by describing the type of image it is, (ie, photo, poster, illustrated picture, painting . . .), then describe what the purpose of the image is. An Example of this might include: “photo of a recreated cránnog. The cránnog is a conical, wooden hut on a small, artificially created, island. You can see the hut is basic, it has an opening, thatched walls and is accessed by crossing a simple, wooden walkway.”  

Informative or Technical Images (Tables, Diagrams, Graphs and Charts)  

Informative images, such as graphs, tables and charts, should always include a brief synopsis of the point they are illustrating in alternative text. Consider the image’s purpose and context, write a concise description starting with the general idea before focusing on key details and relevant relationships.  

Decorative Images 

Decorative images should be marked up to allow screen readers to skip them. 

4.    Use High Contrast Colours 

Ensure there is adequate colour contrast between the text and the background. This allows people who are colourblind to be able to read your document. 

Your poster should use colour combinations with a high level of contrast. This will enable partially sighted people and people with dyslexia to read your posters more reliably. You can check if you have chosen accessible colours – with a contrast value of at least 7 - for free by using online colour contrast checkers such as: Coolors Contrast Checker, WebAIM Colour Contrast Checker or Colour and font Contrast Checker) and text of minimum size 12. 

 For more detailed guidance on making strong, accessible posters, follow this link to the AllyShip Page on Accessible Posters and Graphic designs. 

5.    Provide a Variety of Formats (Text, Video, Audio. . . )

Different people learn, and access information most effectively in different manners. By allowing your audience to choose from different formats of information, they are able to choose the one(s) that they best engage with. 

6.    Clarify Specialised Terms and Phrases (no jargon)

Try to avoid jargon. If it is necessary to use acronyms or abbreviations explain all used at first occurrence. Consider, if you have many specialist words including a glossary, as part of your comms.  

7.    Use Emojis Sparingly

Emojis can be helpful for conveying the tone of a message, however it is important to consider how using many emojis, especially interspersed in messages may cause your meaning to be lost. It hinders people’s understanding of your message if you use them in the middle of a sentence. Best practice is to use emojis at the end of full sentences. It is also generally best to avoid using the same emojis repeatedly, or having a long string of emojis. For example, if I had a tweet that said “When bae hates cats.” Followed by 46 red flag emojis, some text to speech software will read this as: “When bae hates cats. Red flag emoji, red flag emoji, red flag emoji, red flag . . . “. 

8.    Font - Sans Serif and Equal to or Greater than 12pt

The text should be a minimum font size of 12 so that people with visual impairments can read it.

Use easily legible fonts throughout; choose a font such as Calibri or Verdana. These fonts are sans-serif, which means they lack the embellishments on letters that you would find on Times New Roman for example. (If using stylistic fonts, make them larger and remember that function is more vital than artistic flare.) 

Avoid italics and underlining – use bold for emphasis. Reading italic or underlined text is more difficult for people with visual impairments, dyslexia and other learning differences.   

Avoid all capital letters, SUCH AS THIS, it can be challenging to read. Use bold for emphasis.

9.    Be Mindful Of Language Use 

The readability of your message is an important consideration. You can check and improve the readability of your text at this website: Online-Utility - English Readability Test and Improve. Further more you can use software such as Grammarly to check your tone and vocabulary is suitable for a general audience. 

10.   Don't Assume you Don't Have a Disabled Audience

Over 3 in 4 students who registered in their colleges disability service in 2019/20 have an invisible disability listed as their primary disability. You will, in most cases, not know whether someone has a disability or not when you meet them, oftentimes disabled people choose not disclose their disabilities readily, as of the stigma still attached with having a disability or disabilities. 

It is important to include people by default. In making your communications more accessible you are not only prioritising the needs and rights of people with disabilities, you are also increasing the size of your audience and contributing to a cultural shift to a more equitable and inclusive society. 

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Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

East Hall, UCD, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
T +353 1 592 1467 E ahead@ahead.ie W www.ahead.ie RCN 20025182