Points North

Designing Reports for Accessibility

on Oct 25, 2023 in Business

The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and before you know it, it will be the most wonderful time of the year again. Annual and impact report season. Get out your flannel, and start thinking about the impact that your business has made this year. While you are contemplating over what metrics to turn into a captivating infographic, it is also imperative that you ensure your annual report, or honestly any report, is also designed for accessibility.

Designing your report for accessibility is crucial to ensure that all readers, including those with disabilities, can access and understand the content. Here are several ways to make your report more accessible:

Use Accessible Document Formats

Create your report in an accessible format, such as HTML, PDF with proper tagging, or accessible Word documents. At all costs, avoid using scanned PDFs.

Scanned PDFs are not accessible because they are essentially image-based documents. They lack the underlying text data that can be interpreted by screen readers and assistive technologies. There’s also no searchability, which can be extremely frustrating if you’re trying to navigate a lengthy reportl

Provide Alt Text for Images

Add descriptive alternative text (alt text) to all images, charts, and graphs. Alt text helps screen readers convey visual information to users with visual impairments.

Depending on the tool you’re using (like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat), there is typically an option to manually add alt text to images. In most cases, you can right-click on the image, access its properties, and enter the alt text.

Ensure Proper Heading Structure

Use a clear and logical heading structure with hierarchical tags (e.g., H1, H2, H3) to organize your content. Ensure that your tagging is consistent throughout the entire document. This aids navigation and comprehension for screen reader users.

This structure allows users with visual impairments to effectively navigate and understand the relationships between different sections of content. Users can quickly identify the main topics and subtopics.

While not a report, this article in Walden Magazine does a really good job of separating headers, paragraphs, and quotes consistently throughout the text.

Provide Transcripts for Multimedia

If your report includes audio or video content, provide transcripts that include descriptions of visual elements and audio cues. Transcripts offer a text-based version of the audio content, ensuring that the information is accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who may prefer reading over listening.

You can also consider offering alternative formats for the multimedia content itself, such as closed captions for videos or sign language interpretation for live presentations, to accommodate a wider range of accessibility needs.

Implement Keyboard Navigation

Ensure that users can navigate through the report using only the keyboard, without relying on a mouse. This is crucial for individuals with mobility impairments, and ensures that all users can interact with the report’s content and features.

Some ways to implement keyboard navigation are

  • Use Semantic HTML – Start with a well-structured, semantic HTML document. Properly structured content using headings, lists, and links provides a natural flow for keyboard users.
  • Focus on Keyboard Trap Avoidance – Ensure that the report doesn’t create keyboard traps, where users can’t navigate away from a particular element. Elements like modal dialogs and dropdown menus should allow keyboard users to escape or close them using the “Esc” key.
  • Use Tab Navigation – By default, web browsers provide keyboard navigation using the “Tab” key. Ensure that all interactive elements, such as links, buttons, form fields, and navigation menus, can be reached and interacted with using the “Tab” key. Check out this report by Girls Who Code, and notice you can move from section to section by using the “Tab” key.

For more insight into keyboard navigation, refer to the WCAG Guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides specific criteria for keyboard accessibility.

Descriptive Hyperlinks

Make hyperlink text descriptive and informative, avoiding generic terms like “click here.” This helps all users, especially those relying on screen readers. In this United Nations Fund – Strategic Plan 2030 report, you can hover over hyperlinks and see descriptive and informative text on what it’s about.

Color and Contrast Considerations

Ensure text and background colors have sufficient contrast for readability. Avoid relying solely on color to convey information, as some users may have color vision deficiencies.

Use a high level of contrast between your text and background. High-contrast combinations, such as black text on a white background or white text on a black background, make text easier to read for everyone, including those with low vision. You can actually test colors for accessibility using contrast-checking tools.

A contrast checking tool is a software application or online service that helps you access the contrast between text and background colors in digital content, like your report. The tool also compares the calculated contrast ratio to established accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Adjustable Text and Images

Allow users to resize text without content becoming hidden or distorted (this is a bit more complex than putting your report in Word and allowing users to go from a 12 point font to a 20 point font).

When designing your report, use web-safe fonts and specify font sizes using relative units like percentages or ems. Avoid fixed font sizes in pixels, as they can’t be resized by users.

You can also consider adding a text resize feature within your report that allows users to adjust text size. This can be achieved with simple buttons or a slider that increases or decreases font size.

When including complex images, such as charts or diagrams, provide an option to view a larger, more detailed version or a text-based alternative for users who require it.


By implementing these strategies, you can create a report that is accessible to a wider audience, complying with legal requirements and demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Regularly updating and testing for accessibility is key to ensuring your report remains inclusive and user-friendly. Happy formatting!

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