Accessibility

Plain language makes content accessible to people with disabilities, low-language proficiency and non-native English speakers.

Alternative Text (“alt text”)

We must provide alternative text for images, audio files, videos, and all other non-text elements published online.

  • Write appropriate alt text for images:
    • When you use a graphic with legible text, the alt text must contain the graphic’s exact text.
      • However, when possible, avoid using images of text or graphics with text. People who have low vision and/or use screen magnification software to read text will have a difficult time reading graphics of text because they become pixelated.
    • Don’t include the words “image of” or “graphic of” (screen readers already say that the item is an image).
      • Sometimes, it’s appropriate to say that a graphic is a drawing, caricature, photograph, diagram, etc.
    • With the exception of acronyms, avoid typing your alt text in all caps. This causes some screen readers to spell the words instead of speaking them as words.
       
  • Sometimes, a graphic doesn't need alt text:
    • If an image is decorative or doesn’t convey content, it doesn’t need alt text.
    • See 4 Syllables’ “Alt Text Decision Tree” for more help.
       
  • Infographics: If you want to use an infographic, you must provide a complete transcript of the infographic on your page. Enter the transcript in the asset’s transcript field in the CMS.

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Color

Direct people to action-oriented tasks, instead of using color to indicate or convey content.

  • Yes: “Use the submit button to send your request.”
  • No: “Click the red button.”
  • No: “The blue items are required.”

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Info and Relationships

Throughout this guide, we’ve included info that will help you write accessible content, and we’ve provided additional guidance below.

  • Write brief and clear content, but don't sacrifice clarity for brevity. 
  • It’s easier for people to scan and read bulleted content, so use bullets when your content will benefit from them.
  • Use headings with bullets to organize text and to provide structure and relationships to content.
  • Write headings that describe the section's purpose and content. 
  • Use keywords at the beginning of headings so people can quickly grasp what content sections contain.
  • When needed, emphasize text with either bold styling or italics.
    • Use this formatting sparingly since italics can be difficult to read and too much bold text reduces its impact.
    • Avoid underlining text since underlines indicate links.
  • Use icons and text labels consistently. Make sure that the icons complement the content. Always, use text labels with icons. 

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Sensory Characteristics

Some people can’t perceive direction (top, bottom, left, right), color, or shapes. Use terms that identify content by other means than color or location only.

  • Use: See the polling address under the “Locations” tab on the right.
  • Don't use: The polling address appears on the right.
     
  • Use: Submit your answers with the “Go” button.
  • Don't use: Click the red, square button to submit your answers.

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Videos

Captions

As you consider including video as part of your content, you must ensure that any video you use has captions of:

  • The spoken content
  • The name of each person speaking in the video (if it’s relevant)
  • Indications of laughter, sound effects, music, and relevant background noises
  • Indications of indiscernible sound
  • Ironic or sarcastic tone

Audio description

If the video contains visual elements that users must see in order to understand the video, you'll need to ensure that the video has an "audio description track."

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a video that shows the results of littering and excessive use of plastic bottles. Aside from the background music track, the video doesn’t contain audio content—people need to see all of the action taking place to understand the video’s message. In this example, the agency should create an audio description track that narrates and describes the activities for viewers.

Transcript

Include a transcript of the video’s content in the “transcript field” in the CMS.

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Last Updated: May 16, 2017

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