Design and Print-sights Volume 2

Accessibility considerations in design and print

This volume of design and print-sights will focus on accessibility and its importance. Alex, our design studio manager, will cover a few of the accessibility issues from a designer’s point of view. You might know that the Accessibility Regulations 2018 came into force a few months ago so we wanted to share a few hints and tips of how we ensure the designs and printed material we produce is fit for use and as accessible as possible. 

At Design Solutions we are constantly working towards good design practices which means we are always questioning and checking our printed and digital designs from an accessibility point of view. The whole team takes on this responsibility. 

Accessibility is about making sure your designs can be seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible and that no one is excluded. So when we design, we have to consider, for example; colour blindness, dyslexia and visual impairment. 

Colour blindness

Did you know that 8% of all men are colour blind? (Colblindor). 

To ensure our designs are accessible for colour blindness we use a handy app called “Colour Oracle” which mimics “Deuteranopia”, “Protanopia” and “Tritanopia”. These are the three common types of colour blindness. Colour Oracle is a free color blindness simulator for Windows, Mac and Linux which shows “you in real time what people with common colour vision impairments will see”. This is particularly crucial for graphical elements so we’re advised to not just use colour as the visual cue, but to also add labels and text so that the information is clearly understandable.

Dyslexia and visual impairment

Aesthetic vs good practice. 

Aesthetically, block capitals for headings can look eye-catching and attention grabbing. However, for someone with a visual impairment this can be quite a challenge as some screen readers will read block capitals letter by letter, rather than as a full word.

Research has shown that block capitals are much harder to read than lower case words (Practical Typography). A good example of this are our road signs designed by Calvert and Kinnear in the 1960s (British Road Sign Project). The mix of upper and lower case is an essential aid to recognising and identifying the signs more quickly.

When using colour we always check for good contrast, so for example we wouldn’t use pale yellow text on a white background or black text on a dark coloured background.

Font size and choice of font is also an important factor. For example, Sans serif fonts aid readability. We rarely produce documents with body text smaller than 10 point. 

Screen readers

Often printed material is also placed online as a pdf to download or to be read online. So when designing for print we also need to consider how documents will be read on a pdf screen reader. 

A tip: the layout should be linear and logical and needs good use of heading hierarchy so that the page is read in an ordered flow. 

For imagery in a document you can write alternative text in the “attribute” of the image element or in the surroundings of the image. It can be helpful to describe what is happening in the picture to add clarity to the message. 

A tip: if the image is purely for decorative purposes, you can add an empty <alt> attribute and the screen reader will skip it.

Conclusion

It may seem a bit daunting when you read the accessibility legislation but actually much of it is common sense and good design practice. Accessibility matters and as graphic designers we should all promote and consider accessible design. It is our responsibility to strive for inclusivity. 

We understand that these things are important and are easy to worry over as a customer which is why we do it for you. 

The Home Office has published some useful guidelines at: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/helping-people-to-use-your-service/making-your-service-accessible-an-introduction.