Accessibility guidelines

Accessibility means providing equal access to information for all our audiences, with special consideration for people with disability.

When in doubt, publish as a web page.

What counts as disability?

Disability refers to conditions affecting people's physical, mental, intellectual or other abilities. 1 in 5 people in Australia has a disability - that's almost 4 million people. Learn more about disability in Australia.

Just as we use ramps to enable access to our physical environment for people using wheelchairs, bikes or prams, we must also make sure our digital content is accessible for everyone.

Accessibility - essential for some, useful for all

For people with disability, accessible content can be the difference between inclusion and exclusion from information. They may rely on assistive technologies like screen readers, magnifiers or captions to access content.

By ensuring our content is accessible, we are choosing to include all of these people. And in the process, we are also making the content more useful for everyone else, including:

  • speakers of other languages, who may be using translation software
  • users with low literacy levels
  • users on mobile or tablet devices
  • users with poor internet connections
  • time-poor users who just need an answer to their question.

Inclusive design

Our approach to accessibility at the NSW Department of Education is about creating content that does not exclude anyone because of their ability, situation or circumstance. Rather, it is an inclusive approach to content that should make it easier for all users to understand, interact with and respond to our websites, apps, communications and materials.

"Inclusive design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference. Designing inclusively results in better experiences for everyone." - Inclusive Design Research Centre

Check your content is accessible

Ensure all content (text, images, videos and components) are accessible before publishing. Refer to our guidelines and checklists for more help:

Screen reader demonstration

This video demonstrates how the smallest of changes in our content structure can either hinder or enhance the experience for a person using assistive technology like screen readers.

Video transcript

Andrew Downie

Hi, I’m Andrew Downie. I’ve been providing accessibility information to TAFE staff and students for 23 years.

Being born blind I use a screen reader to access information online. If the information is well structured that is remarkably easy. If the information is not well structured I can spend a great deal of time and frustration to get the information that I need. Let me show you what I mean.

Screen reader

Heading 1 - My dog Myffy.

Andrew Downie

This is a web page and you’ll notice that the screen reader announced to me that it was a level 1 heading.

Screen reader

This is a short story about my dog. Let’s see what your knowledge of dogs is like.

Heading 2 – what breed of dog?

Andrew Downie

Again, it tells me it is a level 2 heading.

Screen reader

By looking at her photo, do you know what breed of dog she is?

Smallish brown dog sitting on grass. Somewhat large ears are erect.

Andrew Downie

That was the alternative text on the image.

Screen reader

Does the shape and size of her ears give you a clue?

What about if I tell you the famous person in the next photo has this breed of dog?

Photo of Queen Elizabeth.

Heading 2 – appetite.

Andrew Downie

We’ll leave that there and go on to a less well-structured example.

Screen reader

Top – My dog Myffy.

This is a short story about my dog. Let’s see what your knowledge of dogs is like.

Andrew Downie

Notice that it didn’t tell me it was a heading.

Screen reader

What breed of dog?

Andrew Downie

Same there.

Screen reader

By looking at her photo, do you know what breed of dog she is?

Does the shape and size of her ears give you a clue?

What about if I tell you the famous person in the next photo has this breed of dog?

Appetite

Andrew Downie

Then it goes straight on to “Appetite” because there was no alternative text on the images it doesn’t tell me anything about them.

Let me show you a Word document.

Screen reader

Sample structured file.

Style heading 2 – Using styles

Andrew Downie

So it’s telling me about the styles of the heading.

Screen reader

Style normal – to create a well-structured file, it is important to use formal styles.

That is, do not just adjust font size and style to get the appearance you want.

Use level 1, 2 etc heading styles in an hierarchical manner for headings.

Use formal paragraph styles for paragraphs.

Style heading 2 – tables.

Style normal - although everyone else does it, you and I don't use tables for layout.

When using tables for tabular data, do not split cells across pages.

Insert tables, do not draw them.

Blank.

Andrew Downie

There’s another paragraph telling us not to use text boxes, which you can see on the screen.

But because it is a text box the screen reader can’t read it and therefore I’m not aware that that information is there.
So please don’t use text boxes in Word documents.

It may seem that structuring information correctly requires extra time and effort. And sometimes it does.

But once you get good at it, it often saves you time.

And I appreciate your effort, as do other people who use screen readers and many others who use other forms of assistive technology.

Thank you.

[End of transcript]

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