Accessible content: scrub the decks

A quick guide to making your documents accessible to blind or low-vision people follows.

Remember the acronym: FILTH

For accessible content, you need to scrub away five sorts of rubbish.


  • Minimum size 12 pt as a general rule; sometimes larger.
  • Black text on white background.
  • Do not use text boxes in MS Word.
  • Left-align all text.
  • Avoid lots of italics, block capitals, and underlining.
  • Use bold for emphasis—in moderation.


  • Add alternative text to all images except those that are purely decorative.
  • Add text equivalents for images carrying a lot of meaning, e.g. graphs, maps and diagrams.
  • Use clear, explanatory titles, captions and descriptions for videos.
  • Don't present text as an image, e.g. a scanned PDF.


  • Write link-text that describes what the link leads to, e.g.
    Sydney University Underwater Rugby Club AGM 2013.
  • Don't use Click here as link-text.


  • Use tables for data only.
  • Don't use tables in an attempt to control layout.
  • Keep tables small and symmetrical.
  • Put only one piece of data per cell; not a list.


  • Always use Styles to identify heading levels and format.
  • Use an accessible template and use it correctly.
  • Use the Lists function of Styles for bullets and numbering.

Not so hard, is it?

Do these things on all your documents and you have made a brilliant start to accessibility. However, there's a bit more to learn, and...

You can't clean up all the FILTH all by yourself

It's not that creating accessible documents is difficult. But unfortunately, you may be the only one in your group who understands what to do, and what's at stake.

To make a real difference, accessibility-awareness needs to spread throughout your organisation. Everyone who writes anything at work needs to get the message. Otherwise you will spend your life either trying to fix inaccessible documents or feeling very bad about the mess.

Best way to start: start enrolling staff in Contented sustainable online training. Some of our clients like the following combination.

Contact us to discuss your training needs. We partner with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind to provide the whole gamut of accessibility services and advice.


Jul 12, 2013 • Posted by Joseph Nast

Howdy from Houston, Texas USA :) Thank you for this concise and informative article! May I cite this blog page by Ms. McAlpine in a piece I’m writing for our Disability Services faculty newsletter?

Jul 12, 2013 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

Hi Joseph. Certainly you may cite this blog page and its companion piece. We’d be delighted.

May 17, 2013 • Posted by Ike Presley

In your suggestions about fonts, please add the following;

Avoid serif fonts like Times New Roman
Use san serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, APHont

May 17, 2013 • Posted by Rachel McAlpine

John, thanks for letting me know about our CAPTCHA. I feel your pain. I’ll ask if our designer can find a decent alternative. Meantime I will subscribe you to our newsletter.

May 17, 2013 • Posted by John Getz

Very good post. I’d like to subscribe to your blog, but I’m frustrated by your CAPTCHA. It is nice to have the audio version, but it still frustrated me. Can you sign me up please?

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