What accessibility means for content development

Content can be presented in many ways – websites, Word or RTF files, PDFs or printed material. All these formats can be made accessible. Sometimes this will mean providing alternative formats, such as electronic versions of print products. For example, the Australian Government recommends that documents online should be presented as accessible HTML content, with an accessible PDF or Word file as optional extras.

In brief, to create accessible content, you need to consider:

One of the key tests for accessible content is whether it can be read by a screen reader – that is, a program that converts text to speech. Content must pass a range of requirements to achieve this. Some programs include such a tool (eg Read Out Loud for Adobe Acrobat and the Speak Selected Text button in some versions of Microsoft Word). Some screen readers are standalone applications that can work with many programs (eg NVDA for PCs, VoiceOver for Macs, ChromeVox, ClickHear, JAWS).

If you have recorded speech in your content, you may also need to test your content with a speech-to-text converter or automatic speech recognition software. This allows users with hearing impairment to view a written version of audio content.

Caution! It is much more efficient to create your content with a view to accessibility than to ‘retrofit’ accessible features to a finalised publication or website. If you want your content to be accessible, keep this in mind right from the planning stage, and consider it at every stage of the content and web development process, not just at the end.

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