Nowadays, accessibility is essential in technical writing since the guidelines help to create user-friendly documentation. If you want to create more accessible user manuals, instructions and the like, you need to be familiar with those regulations. From this article, you will learn the key points you should pay attention to.

Section 508

Usually, the majority of professionals follow the Section 508 guidelines. Section 508 requires federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use information and communications technology that is accessible to people with disabilities — regardless of whether or not they work for the federal government. The US Access Board established the Section 508 standards that implement the law and provides the requirements for accessibility.

Here are some recommendations on creating accessible documentation.

Headings

Headings don’t only visually break up information, they also create metadata that screen readers rely on. Screen readers can recognize and vocalize division in information, that’s why you should pay attention to headings and make it more informative, so screen readers can vocalize it effectively.

Text Size, Alignment, and Spacing

The first and foremost, text should be clear and concise, so screen readers can also recognize and vocalize it properly. Speaking of formatting, text size, alignment, and spacing make all the difference in readability, that’s why text should not fall below 11pt font to be legible by the naked eye, and it should also be aligned left.

Tables and Images

Despite the fact the tables and images are visual-based, screen readers can vocalize their information that’s why you should pay attention to a few things to make your tables and images more accessible:

  • Alternate Text. An alternate text is a text that’s put in the properties of the table or image. Screen readers rely on this text, in order to vocalize tables and images. The text should not only describe the look but the content and intent of the table or image. You can learn more about effective alt text here: Effective Image Alt Text in Technical Writing.
  • Alignment. Screen readers move through a document like a cursor, vocalizing information it approaches. However, in some cases, the screen reader can vocalize alternate text in the middle of a sentence. To make sure everything is read in the right order, align tables and images with the text.
  • Merged cells. Tables should not have merged cells since screen readers cannot vocalize merged cells.

Colors

When you create charts, visual presentations, graphs, and the like, keep in mind common color combinations affected by colorblindness. For example, blue text with a purple background will be muddied and unreadable to many people who are colorblind.

Conclusion

In order to make your documentation more user-friendly, follow Section 508 and other accessibility best practices. Moreover, these guidelines will help you create better structured and organized documentation for all audiences, as well.

Written by
Ann Green
Content Manager at ClickHelp. In my blog, I write about technical writing.
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