FAQs for creating accessibile documents

What is an accessible document?

An accessible document is where your electronic document is created in an easy-read format. They are designed so they can be used by as many people as possible including those with disabilities.

Why do I need to create accessible documents?

We want information about our research to be available to everyone, regardless of their accessibility needs. New national regulations have been brought into force to require websites and documents published online comply with accessibility guidance.

It is now everyone’s responsibility to create documents that are accessible, even if they will not be on an online platform. This includes word documents, webpages, Excel or PowerPoint presentations.

Who should be creating accessible documents?

Anyone who is responsible for creating electronic documents that will be shared with other people – whether using Word, designing a poster, creating an Excel sheet or a PowerPoint – should now meet the accessibility guidance.

Do all my online documents now need to be updated?

No. Documents that have been created before September 2018 do not need to be updated.

Any documents online and published after September 2018 need to be updated.

Documents that are no longer in use e.g. event posters, old minutes do not need to be updated and should be removed or archived on the website.  

What about my documents that do not need to be on a website?

The new guidance relates to published documents. However, if you are regularly using a document e.g. patient information leaflet, protocols, reports, booking forms etc. you should review them and think whether they should comply with the new guidance. 

Think about the person you are sending it to or who is accessing it electronically. Could they need your document in an accessible format? Where appropriate, decide whether you should update your documents to the new standards.

Do I have a deadline of updating all my documents?

The new guidance became effective in September 2020. Any documents that are published online need to be updated as soon as possible.

Documents that are not online do not need to be done immediately but any you work on or are in regular use electronically (patient information sheet, protocol information, reports, booking forms, training information), should be reviewed.

How do I make documents accessible?

An accessible document is looking at the content, style, structure and what is embedded in the document that isn’t just text e.g. pictures. You will need to think about:

·         Use of headings.

·         Use of meaningful hyperlinks.

·         Adding alternate text to images.

·         Using tables wisely

The full guidelines created by the NIHR Cambridge BRC will have details how to add these to your document.

What if I need to create a new document?

For best practice, all new documents you create that are intended to be shared or accessed by other people electronically should now be in an accessible format, whether they will be published online or not.

Accessible documents relate to any output, including PowerPoint presentation, posters or Excel and will help the reader.

A guide and a document template has been created for you from the NIHR Cambridge BRC communications team. Your relevant NIHR PowerPoint presentation template has also been updated.

What if I need to create a document that needs to go on a website?

Websites are now becoming more equipped to be accessible for the user. Where possible, see if your information can be placed on a web page rather than in a document to be uploaded to a website. Talk to the relevant website team to decide the best option.

Do I have to update my PDFs?

If you have any documents that are online in a PDF format they will need to be updated as soon as possible.

Things you might not need to fix

You do not need to fix the following types of content because they’re exempt from the accessibility regulations:

·         PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018

·         maps – but you’ll need to provide essential information in an accessible format like an address

·         third party content that’s under someone else’s control if you did not pay for it or develop it yourself

Who has to meet the 2018 accessibility regulations?

All public sector bodies have to meet the 2018 requirements, unless they are exempt. Public sector bodies include:

  • central government and local government organisations
  • some charities and other non-government organisations

Useful resources

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If you would like more information about NIHR Cambridge BRC, please contact us.

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