3. Electronic Documents

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3.1. HTML5

Resources permitting, HTML5 is generally accessible where the website accessibility standard of WCAG 2.1 AA or higher has been met.

3.2. Images and Graphics

Use of images or graphics for decorative effect may interfere with the accessibility of documents to screenreader users. Also, all websites etc should have their contents logically arranged in their displays so that information is not disorganised and nonsensical when navigating using screenreading technology.

Where images are used, necessary information should not be confined to an image, but should be contained in the text itself, with the image as an illustration to the sighted reader. In other words, images should be supportive of the text rather than vise versa.

Nonetheless, the descriptions of images themselves need to put the screenreader user at as little disadvantage as possible in terms of the information being provided in that image. Where maps are used, details such as dimensions, distances, and directions should be provided in the image description, as relevant, but with the information being provided as clearly and in as much detail as possible in the text itself.

Alt text has a limit of sixty characters, and as such is often insufficient in terms of giving enough detail in the description. In HTML 5, all images, including graphs, charts, pictures, logos, etc., should have an option of an inpage link for a detailed description of each image, including all relevant details.

Key information, such as links, should not be embedded in images. Hyperlinking or embedding of links in text is fine, but whether the full link is given or the link is embedded in text, the title or subject of the link, as well as its location (e.g., the Health Service Executive), should be made clear before the link can be activated.

While many designers use the hyperlink design feature jointly with bookmarks to ensure the location of focus when a page refreshes, it is important that independent links on a page have their properties correctly set to be in logical order, activatable by both mouse, enter key and spacebar, since activation options differ on different devices.

3.4. MS Word

3.4.1. an MS Word version at all times

Where a document is begun/created in Microsoft Word, it is generally, by default, accessible to screenreading technology. Such accessibility can be improved on within Word (see below), but because of the general default accessibility of Word, where a statutory body is offering downloadable documents, there must always be an easily available Word .doc/.docx version of the document which is accessible to screenreading technology. This is in addition to any other formats which may be the default, such as .pdf format.

Unlike .pdf files, Microsoft Word has the advantage of being transformable into braille by Duxbury embossing software, which is currently the most used such software by braille transcription service providers in Ireland.

Although documents begun in Word tend to be, by default, screenreader accessible, pasting other formats into .doc/.docx may not work, and if it is from an untagged .pdf or .jpg or .png, it is guaranteed to be 100% unreadable by screenreading technology.

3.4.2. No Images

Unless the Word .doc/.docx files are very small, all images need to be removed. As with 2.1.2 above, the same standards apply in terms of all useful and relevant information being contained in the text, as well as Useful descriptions of original images being provided in the appropriate places.

3.4.3. Formatting Within the Document

The Word document formatting should be kept as simple as possible, including:

  • The formatting of a document should be approached in a logical manner. The document or information should be ‘following the dots’ so to speak.
  • Except for languages such as Arabic which are written right-to-left, documents should have a default left indent with no use of ‘justify’.
  • Tables should only be used for numeric data, not for the presentation of text
  • Automatic list functions such as autonumbering or autobulleting can cause difficulties for screenreader users, and so, should be disabled when creating an accessible document in Word.
  • Use of textboxes can cause unnecessary problems for screenreader users. This also means that framing an entire document in a box is problematic, since it can affect the focus of the screenreader. Text-boxes are also a no! no because they create a text area in a text area, and unless the text box is logically arranged by setting properties, a screenreader will either not get to read the text or it will not appear in a logical order.
  • Use of heading styles are advised for optimal screenreader accessibility.
  • All text in a document should be compatible with the High Contrast or invert colours functions on Windows and IOS operating systems, respectively.
  • Font size of 16 pt is recommended to facilitate easier reading for partially sighted people.
  • Where page-numbering exists in the original text, it must be replicated in the accessible Word .doc/.docx version, so that at least, any part of the text can be accurately quoted with reference to the page number of the original, from the accessible Word .doc/.docx. This means that page numbers (e.g., [page 9]), should come before the text of that “page”. In other words, in the accessible MS Word document, it is unlikely that the pagination will be identical to the original, on a page-by-page view, but this should not matter once the text itself contains the page-numbering in the appropriate places (as per the original).
  • The original paragraphing must be retained so that a screenreader-user can navigate by paragraph (using the keyboard) if they wish.

3.5. Adobe PDF format

In addition to the necessary provision of the screenreader-friendly Word .doc/.docx version described above. If the default document is .pdf, these .pdf files also need to be as screenreader friendly as possible.

To be accessible to screenreading technology, .pdf files must be fully tagged and properly structured.

In .pdf files, it should be remembered that the limit of 60 characters in Alt text boxes may not be sufficient to give a useful description of the image.

3.6. Email

While in-page email messaging should always be accessible to screenreading technology, a corresponding email address should be available alongside it just in case it is not accessible, and because it allows the sender to retain a durable copy of the communication they send.

As with Word .doc/.docx, tabulated text, textboxes or information (including links) embedded in graphics, should not be used. This is the case even where the email supplies a link to an onsite version of the same text.

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