Tips for creating accessible content
We are committed to making RNLI communications accessible to everyone, online and offline.
In line with the Equality Act 2010, it is our duty to ensure that our website and printed materials are accessible to people with disabilities.
We can make RNLI communications more accessible to people with disabilities at little, or no, additional cost.
So when you’re writing for the RNLI, follow these tips:
Use clear and concise language
Keep it simple. To make your copy more accessible, use plain English and avoid acronyms and jargon. If you’ve written a long sentence of more than 20 words, think about splitting it up into shorter sentences.
Read it back after you’ve finished and ask yourself: is it clear and easy to understand?
It’s important that webpages are broken up with clear headings. Some people use assistive technology, which allows users to access digital information through a device. It can bring up lists of headings for users to navigate by, which helps them understand the structure of the page and to decide what content they want to navigate to.
Headings also need to be used in the correct nesting order, they are for structure, not style – you can’t use an H3 if you’ve not used an H2 yet. You can check headings on a page either by inspecting the page or by putting the page through the WAVE tool.
If you only read the headings on a page, can you understand what the content will be?
Use unique page titles
Each webpage needs a unique title which explains the content of the page, and helps users work out if they want to view it.
If you’re creating a news article, check there aren’t any with the same title.
Use alt text
If someone is using assistive technology, like a screen reader, they won’t be able to see images. That’s where alt text comes in. It's a short description of an image, which makes sense of that image when it can't be viewed.
When you’re writing alt text, think about what information the image is conveying. Be specific, and don’t start with ‘a picture of …’ – think how you’d briefly describe the image over the phone. WebAim have some great examples of how to write alt text.
If you’re uploading images to the website, they need descriptive alt text. Images of text should be avoided where possible. Alt text for thumbnails should be the name of the document, image or video.
Use descriptive links
Assistive technology can bring up lists of links, or users may choose to navigate only via links. Link text should therefore be clear and explain where the link will take the user, for example: ‘visit the homepage’. Don’t use vague ‘click here’ type links. If links are going to different destinations, they need different link text.
Test it out: If you just read the links on a page, do you understand where each link would take you?
Use clear instructions
Users may not be using a visual method of accessing the website, so instructions need to be clear and non-visual. Don’t rely on colour, size, shape or position for your instructions, such as ‘click on the big red button on the right’. Use labels or headings, like: ‘click the submit button’.
Consider your use of colour
Some users may have colour vision deficiency and will perceive colours differently. Some people may have trouble distinguishing some colours from others. So, if you’re choosing text and background colours, it’s important to make sure there’s enough contrast between text and the background it is on. All RNLI brand colours have been tested against each other and there is a document listing the acceptable combinations - please email [email protected] if you would like a copy.
And if you’re using a graph, make sure bars or wedges are not distinguished purely by colour – try using a pattern too.
Ask yourself: If you looked at the page in black and white is there anything that would no longer make sense?
If you have any questions or would like more guidance on making your content more accessible, please get in touch with the Digital Team.