Accessibility – Why We Start With Documents

Emily Klein
April 18, 2024

Accessibility consultant, George Rhodes, explores the importance of creating accessible content and the value of attending our Accessible Documents online training course on July 18th 2023. 

Accessibility is a massive field and there are so many avenues into the discussion. We could talk about regulation compliance, technical standards, human rights, and disability activism. But for us one of the best starting points is by discussing the humble document.

Why documents?

So, we start with documents. Why? Because everyone is familiar with some form of document creation, whether you write word documents, PowerPoint presentations or create PDFs from InDesign, everyone knows what a document is.

As we teach about accessibility we focus on the social model. Which means we look at how our actions as content creators, businesses and professionals, disable people because of inaccessible design choices. We want to teach people that they can take simple actions to improve the accessibility of their work and that we all have a responsibility to do so.

Because everyone is familiar with documents, we are also all familiar with what a bad document looks like. A lot of accessible content design does feel like common sense when you think about it, and being able to show what inaccessible design looks like in documents acts as a great bridge to teach accessible content design skills which can be used in all situations, without making the course feel to tech-y.

For example, I could start talking about alt text attributes in web content and where best to put alt text vs a details tag or long-description, and most people will immediately have stopped reading this article.

Or I can start a discussion with attendees about how you talk through images when you are presenting PowerPoint slides. Why do you have that image in your presentation? What would you say to an audience in that context to explain what that image is and why it is there? That’s the same principle as providing alt text for blind users, but we can approach the subject from a far more familiar route, while working through several examples together and showing the tools to add in alt text or make other accessibility changes across most document platforms.

Why we run the accessible documents course


We run the course because we want to provide a low barrier entry point to the discussion of creating accessible content.

The course is meant to provide practical skills to help attendees know what good accessibility practices look like and how to deliver those in different content types.

We like to cover all the skills, building from the basics up to more complex skills around PDF creation by the end of the day.

Attendees get to learn about:

  • Colour contrasts, what it is, how to check it and why it is valuable
  • Building well structured documents, how to use headings, lists and bookmarks
  • Clear and concise information, including plain English behaviours, and writing clear link text
  • Alternative text descriptions and how to apply them in different situations, decorative images, complex images, graphs and diagrams
  • Tables and their wide array of accessibility challenges
  • And so much more.

We always make sure that our attendees leave our courses equipped with the skills to start working on better accessibility as soon as they return to work the next day, and to make sure of that we always end out training with open ended Q&A sessions. We will stay around as long as there are still questions to make sure you get everything you need to feel comfortable that you can start your journey to improving the accessibility of your content. And if we miss something are always happy for attendees to contact us afterwards as well.

If you want to learn more about content accessibility you can check out what upcoming courses we have on the Inside Government website. And if you have any questions please come and talk to us. We want to make sure we are delivering training that is right for you and are always happy to talk.

View the agenda and register here