Creating accessible communications

Learn how to make your information and communications accessible.

It’s important to ensure all our information and communications, whether printed or digital/electronic are accessible to everyone.

Who do we need to consider?

People with a wide range of circumstances benefit from accessible information, including those who have:

  • Vision impairments
  • Mobility impairments
  • Learning difficulties
  • Hearing impairments
  • Have English as a second language
  • Use mobile phones or other small displays
  • Have slow internet connections
  • Where video or audio are disabled.

Inclusive design for Canvas

This resource outlines some of the minimum essentials to create an inclusive, accessible Canvas course. These essentials include headings, tables, alt text, images and links. Additionally, this Canvas course offers information on how you can test for accessibility and further readings about inclusive design and accessibility standards and laws. Adopting an inclusive, accessible approach will improve the experience of all your students, ensure quality and consistency across the University and uphold our international and national obligations.

See Inclusive design for Canvas

Creating accessible digital content

A good way to think of document accessibility is to treat it in the same way we consider spelling and grammar. It should be built into a document, not added on afterwards. This will not only be inclusive, it will be professional, clear, and easy to understand.

Key steps to accessibility

1. Use Arial or other strong sans serif font.
2.  Minimum size is 12pt in print format. Digital documents can usually be enlarged but avoid close line-spacing.
For Powerpoints, minimum  18pt but depends on screen size.
3.  Do not use ornate fonts.
4.  Avoid using italics.
5.  Avoid using block capitals.
6.  Avoid using underlining.
7.  Use bold text to emphasise text without reducing readability.
8. Embed hyperlinks into sentences which include meaningful information. Avoid the use of “click here” or “read more”.

All images in a Microsoft Word document require alternate (descriptive) text.
1. All graphs, charts, diagrams require text. Do not use text boxes in Microsoft. Do not use scanned files.

1.  Use good colour contrast.
Check with Colour Contrast Analyser. Vision Australia has written a full explanation on How to Use the Colour Contrast Analyser.
2.  Left align text.           
3.  Use a vertical line to indicate separate columns.

1.  Avoid using merged cells.
2.  Avoid using blank rows and columns.
3.  Consider reading order of tables.
4.  Add bookmarks for table headers.

1.  Use heading styles to format Microsoft Word documents.

Word documents

Microsoft Word has a built in accessibility checker that works much like a spell check. This covers most accessibility issues in work saved in .docx format. 

Find any issues on your document with the Accessibility Checker. Further information is available on the Microsoft website.

See Make your documents accessible for people with disabilities.

1.     Select “File” tab.
2.     Select “Info”.
3.     Select “Check For Issues”.
4.     Select “Check Accessibility”.


Most PDFs are not accessible as they are read as images by the computer. Do not use PDFs as the only communication tool. Where possible, include information on a page.

Adobe has a feature that checks a PDF's accessibility and shows you how to correct any mistakes. 

See: Using the Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Checker.

If a PDF is going to be sent, include the original Word Document. If said document is short, include it in the body of the email instead and use the subject line to clearly explain the email.

Video Content

Include closed captions and/or transcripts. A full list of caption tips is available in the Ministry of Social Development Accessible Communications Handbook. Make your communications more accessible.

Accessible meetings

Ensure all your meetings, both virtual and in person are accessible to all participants.

Tips for accessible virtual meetings: At a glance (video –

Running accessible meetings – Office of Disability Issues

Live Transcription is now available in Microsoft Teams meetings. This is a written record of the spoken text and identifies who is speaking, during a meeting. To find out more, visit this Sharepoint site.

Social media

There are plenty of ways to make your social media posts more accessible regardless of your platform. Accessible Social have come up with a free resource and education hub.

Further information

For more detail about how to make your content accessible, check out Making Accessible documents and websites: New Zealand Blind Foundation.