Designing Inclusive Images and Words

Focus Area Six
Designing Accessible Documents and Presentations (Part One)

Image: Camera lens in front of a keyboard


Making graphics, documents, and presentations accessible ensures that they can be edited, navigated and used by a wide range of people. It is important to plan, format, and design documents and presentations from the very beginning, making sure that all files are accessible and can be converted into a variety of alternative formats, including PDF documents or braille (Queens University, n.d.). The latest versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint have a built-in Accessibility Checker that helps you find and fix accessibility issues in the same way the Spell Checker tells you about possible spelling errors (Microsoft, 2017).

Developing an Understanding

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has recommended guidelines that ensure all visual communication including websites, signs, books, brochures and packages be accessible and as barrier-free as possible. The CNIB recommends the following ways to make print as clear and readable as possible for everyone (CNIB, n.d.).


Use high-contrast colours for text and background. Good examples are black or dark blue text on a white or yellow background, or white or yellow text on a black or dark blue background.

example of low and high contrast text

Type Colour

Printed material is most readable in black and white. Restrict coloured text to things like titles, headlines or highlighted material.

example of different font colour

Font Point Size

Keep your text large, preferably between 12 and 18 points, depending on the font. (Point size varies among fonts.)

example of different font sizes

Font Family and Font Style

Avoid complicated or decorative fonts. Choose standard sans serif fonts with easily recognizable upper- and lower-case characters. Arial, Verdana and Helvetica are good choices.

example of different font families and font styles

Font Heaviness

Opt for fonts with medium heaviness and avoid light type with thin strokes. When emphasizing a word or passage, use a bold or heavy font. Italics or upper-case letters are not recommended.

example of different font weights


Leading is the space between lines of text and should be at least 25 to 30 per cent greater than the point size. This space lets readers move more easily to the next line of text. Too much leading, however, makes type harder to read. Heavier typefaces will require slightly more leading.

example different leading settings

Letter Spacing

Don’t crowd your text and keep a wide space between letters.

example of different letter spacing settings

— from CNIB Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines

When you are designing graphics, documents and presentations, it is also important to be mindful of how different people see colour. Colour Vision Deficiency (also known as colour blindness) does not mean that people only see in black and white and cannot see colour, they just see the colours in a different way. There are a number of variations of vision deficiency including: Deuteranomalia (which makes all the colours look a little faded), Protanopia (which makes everything seem a little green), and Tritanopia (greenish-pink tones) (Colblindor, n.d.).

Here is a link to Colblisopen new window, a colour blindness simulator where you can simulate various forms of colour vision deficiency using one of your own images (Colblindor, n.d.).

 Cluster of world flags through a color blindness simulator.