In the office, people need to be able to understand what is being communicated to them in order for the job to be done properly. For the most part, it’s done well, however, with the rise of diversity in the workplace, there is no time like the present to take it to the next level.
If you want to know how to improve the accessibility of your emails, documentation, and other written office materials, here are some tips for doing it.
Reasons for having accessible documents
If you are reading this, the reason you are improving the accessibility of written materials might be to become more inclusive and this is one of the main reasons most businesses are embracing it. An inclusive workspace attracts diverse recruitment and supports the staff who need it.
It is well known that when the environment is right, people with specific learning needs are able to think creatively and often excel. Starting with the way you communicate is the foundation.
However, accessibility is also an incredibly smart business endeavor. Just because you know what you mean doesn’t mean it translates that way. If everyone understands what to do and things make sense, it means:
- Less errors
- Improved staff confidence
- You reach a wider audience
- A more engaging workplace
- You save time by explaining things
More importantly, it’s incredibly easy to do and can actually improve your job performance along the way.
1. Use simple language
Whether you’re emailing a large audience, writing a newsletter, or creating new material for a new procedure at work, the intention is for others to embrace it. In these cases, the use of plain language is necessary.
First of all, you should avoid using acronyms and jargon in your text. Some people may not know what they mean and can be a barrier for newcomers. They can also make employees feel left out and undermine the overall impact of your work. Instead, write out the acronyms in full and choose words that everyone can understand.
When writing to an audience, a good tip is to write for someone who has no clue about your work. Many written communications bypass important details and miss the necessary steps. It happens when the author writes from a place of knowledge and mentally fills in the gaps rather than writing them down.
By being thorough and considering each step carefully, you can write a more in-depth explanation and you are less likely to get employees asking for clarification. For example, telling someone what to do can be quite open-ended, while telling someone what not to do also keeps the specific instruction.
You can use examples if you have a hard time simplifying something, to give your work real-world application as well.
2. Using the accessible font
There’s a reason most websites, apps, and social media sites use the same type of font, and that’s because they know it reaches a larger audience. Your email and digital mail applications already have an easy-to-read default font, which is typically Arial or Calibri, and are ideal accessible fonts to use for all written documentation.
Lower case text is also more pleasing to the eye, so avoid using all caps, for example when writing headlines or trying to emphasize something. Instead, you can bold words to draw the person’s attention to themselves, or to break up the text.
Additionally, the font size may be important for employees who have difficulty seeing smaller text. Text of 12 pixels or more is ideal and is often the standard for public documents. Smaller than that and you risk people not being able to read it properly. Of course, they can use the Zoom work on their computers if it is a digital file, but if it has been printed it may cause problems.
Lastly, the font and backgrounds should be black and white, and if you need to use color, blue is best because it’s the one most people with color blindness can make out. Not only that, it is a simple color that is not in contrast.
3. Breaking blocks of text
Have you ever received an email or document with continuous blocks of text? If so, you will know that it can be off-putting, and it can also be difficult for many people to read. Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to make detailed chunks of text more accessible.
Bullets and numbered lists are great tools to use for listing ideas, benefits, steps, and other pieces of information. Make sure the bullet points are concise and specific, and you can condense several paragraphs into one easy-to-read section. It keeps the reader’s attention and saves you time.
Another way to divide text is to use pictures. However, you have to be careful with the images you use. Any image you use should complement the text; if your image contains important information that is not included in your writing, you could exclude or confuse people. Images should also use simple colors and avoid contrasting colors that might be difficult for others to see.
You might not need to do this if this is just an email you are sending, but in that case it might be worth considering if that email could be broken down into separate emails if they contain many different ideas and topics. Keeping a topic in email is ideal if there is a lot to do.
Being accessible helps everyone
Everyone has different ways of working, and some people may need additional things that are not covered here. The important thing is to get feedback and find out what works for people; the more you can improve the accessibility of your written communication, the more benefits you will derive from it.
Don’t think about it too much; just start and try. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to an accessible workplace, and others will appreciate your approach to mindfulness.
When you quit a job, how should you hand over it? Here are some quick and easy steps to shift your workload before you start your new job.
About the Author