Hidden Accessibility

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Introduction

The purpose of this module is to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring that your electronic information is accessible to screen-reading software designed for people with a visual impairment who are unable to see the screen or use a mouse or other pointing device. Screen-reading software, as the name implies, will read out what is on the screen along with using formatting instructions you put into the document to allow the user to navigate through it. This ultimately allows people who cannot see the screen to access and produce written information. Screen reading software is a type of assistive technology.  According to the definition on the Scottish Governments website ‘Assistive technology refers to products or systems that support and assist individuals with disabilities, restricted mobility or other impairments to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible’ 

Screen-reading software does not rely on the external appearance of a document or website but on its internal structure. We call this Hidden Accessibility.

When you have completed this module, you will have an understanding of

  • Why the structure of your document and the way it is formatted is important in making it accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Why you should use the Styles function in your computer applications (e.g. Microsoft Word) to format these headings instead of selecting your heading text and formatting it manually by maybe making it bold and a different size.
  • Adding Meta-information. Meta-information is extra but unseen information such as the authors name or keywords to describe the document.  This Meta-Information does not actually appear on the pages of your document but is stored ‘inside’ the document and can be read by the application you use to open the document or by systems such as Internet search engines which can use it to decide if your document is relevant to someones online search.
  • Why you should use alternative text (Alt-Text) to describe non-text elements in your document.  Non-text elements are things like images (photographs, drawings, symbols).  Alt-Text is descriptive text which is attached to your non-text elements and which a screen reader will read out to a user. For example, the Alt-Text for the image above is ‘Image showing a Microsoft Word document with different headings separating different parts of the document’
  • Making information in tables accessible.

It is recommended that you should be aware of the SAIF Guidelines about choice of font, point size, layout and language before starting this module. You can find out more about these by completing our Accessible Information Awareness elearning module.

You may like to have a Word document open to try out some of the points covered. We have used examples from Microsoft Word 365 (June 2022). If you are using earlier versions of Microsoft Office you can download our comparison table:

If you are using a different package you will find that while the principles are the same the methods might vary. Your User Manual should provide full instructions.

We anticipate the total module will take around an hour to complete.

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