“No thanks, we don’t need your accessibility services – we don’t have any blind customers…”
As a company devoted to making information accessible to people who are blind and visually-impaired, this is something we hear quite a lot. And, to be honest, it’s a little frustrating.
Businesses and services should understand that customers often don’t ask for documents in accessible formats because they might not know you’re happy to offer them (although it is, of course, a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments). Likewise, how will blind and visually-impaired people know about your products and services, if you don’t communicate in a format they can access?
Consider this example: How can a blind person book tickets for a show if they don’t know what’s on because the theatre brochure is only available in print? By limiting your communication channels to standard print and non-accessible formats, you’re automatically excluding a significant number of potential customers and service-users.
Stand out from the crowd: write your accessibility statement
Telling your customers and service-users that you are happy to provide your information in alternative formats via an ‘accessibility statement’ is the first step to becoming accessible. It creates a welcoming environment for blind, visually-impaired and print-disabled people and shows your customers you’re thinking about them as individuals, adapting to their needs.
Accessibility statements don’t need to be complicated. They just need to explain what formats and languages your documents are available in, and how the reader can order or request them – ideally with a phone and email address. Here’s an example:
“This document is available in Braille, Audio, Large Print, and E-text formats. It is also available in a range of languages. Please phone 01179 44 00 44 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.”
Make your accessibility statement…accessible!
Sadly, we often find accessibility statements tucked away at the back of the document in the tiniest of fonts, almost as an after-thought. People are far more likely to notice your accessibility statement if it is displayed on the first or second page of your document, and in bold, large print.
Customers and service users should feel comfortable about asking for the format they prefer and in the style they need. Although we usually transcribe large print documents with black text on a yellow background in font size 18, your customers may have specific requirements for their preferred format, for example font size 22 on white or pink paper. At A2i, we are very happy to adapt our processes to fit your customers’ or service-users’ needs – so please do ask!
What if you’ve already printed your documents?
Ideally, you should consider the needs of your visually-impaired and print-disabled customers from the outset of document creation to ensure they can access your documents. Leaving accessibility until last minute can not only increase your costs, but it also means that your print-disabled customers or clients aren’t really getting equality of service, as they often have to wait while a dedicated copy is produced (although at A2i we do have a speedy turnaround time!).
But don’t worry if you’ve already printed your documents: A2i can provide special ‘combination labels’ (which include both Braille and large print text) that you can apply to your existing materials, letting people know about your accessibility measures.
Tips to help you write your accessibility statement:
- Put your accessible information statement on the contents or front page of your document.
- Try to use a minimum font size 16 for your accessibility statement. We like to use font size 18 as standard.
- To improve readability, use a sans serif font such as MS Word’s Calibri, Verdana or Arial (san serif fonts don’t have the curly bits at the end of each character and are easier to read).
- Make sure your accessibility statement is on a plain background. Text over pictures or on a similar colour as the font can be difficult to read.
- Avoid writing words in all capital letters. You might think capitals are easier to read, but the letters are actually harder to distinguish.
- Likewise, avoid using italics as these can also hinder readability.