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Making Agency Communications Accessible to Everyone

During an emergency, it is more important than usual for all people to have equal and timely access to urgent communications. Emergencies often disproportionately impact individuals with disabilities, so take extra care to ensure that your digital content conforms to Section 508. 

The following tips will help you to create accessible digital content.

Agency Official Communication

Electronic Documents

  • Use a strong color contrast and avoid pattern backgrounds.
  • Structure content in a layout that is easily read from left to right. When possible, avoid using text boxes, layout tables, and data tables.
  • If data tables are used, ensure column and row headings are included and informative.
  • Choose a font that is clear and easy to read; font size should be at least 10 points for standard text.
  • Use built-in heading styles, such as Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc., to create a structured document. This will help readers understand document flow, and the sections relate to one another. 
  • Organize content into bulleted and numbered lists, using built-in styles, to organize content and make it more reader-friendly.
  • When using images that convey information, provide alternative text (ALT text) descriptions that explain the purpose of the image. Avoid using color as the only means to convey information.
  • Use digital signatures instead of handwritten signatures. Scanned documents are not inherently accessible, and they require additional time to make accessible.
  • PDF documents must be tagged and structured per the above guidelines. PDFs of scanned documents (image only) are not accessible without additional effort.
  • Provide equivalent text versions of inaccessible documents via accessible HTML, an alternative file format, or within the body of an email.
  • Visit www.section508.gov/create for “how-to” guides, training videos, and a checklist on creating accessible electronic documents.

Webpages

  • Publish content in HTML, rather than in an electronic document, whenever possible. It is typically easier to create accessible content in a web page, and easier for readers, particularly people with disabilities, to view.
  • Use native HTML and proper tagging to create content and page structure (headings, lists, etc.). Basic HTML that follows the HTML specification is accessible.
  • Avoid using only color to convey information.
  • Avoid creating elements with scripting.
  • Associate a descriptive label with each field in a form.
  • Linked text should be unique, meaningful, and explain what the reader will get if they click. Avoid non-descriptive links such as “read more” and “click here.” Clearly labeled hyperlinks improve search engine optimization.
  • Describe meaningful images by including alternative (ALT) text with an equivalent description (or use ALT=”” where an image is ornamental).
  • Include column and row headings on data tables.
  • Visit our Guide to Accessible Web Design & Development for further guidance.
  • The US Web Design System can also help you create more accessible customer experiences.

Videos and Virtual Meetings

  • Captions are required for information provided by speech or sound. Consider using FedRelay solutions, such as Relay Conference Captioning (RCC), to caption your conference call or webinar. 
  • Include descriptions of visual content in speaker narration. Otherwise, provide audio descriptions for information provided through graphics and pictures.
  • Make sure the media player controls are keyboard accessible.
  • Review this Video, Audio and Social guidance for more information.

Social Media

  • Verify that your chosen platforms allow for the addition of captions on images or videos.
    • For images without ALT text, caption the images in the text of the post.
    • For inaccessible videos, include a link to an accessible version of the video on your agency website.
  • Review this Video, Audio and Social guidance for more information.

Please contact us at Section.508@gsa.gov if you have questions or need additional assistance.

This guidance was developed by the Federal CIO Council’s Interagency Accessibility Community of Practice Leadership Team, and GSA’s Government-wide IT Accessibility Program.