Whenever we talk about accessibility and brands, we get a remarkably consistent reaction. We call it the ADA face – the deer-in-the-headlights “uh-oh” stare of a brand manager or marketing pro who sees the ADA compliance train coming, but doesn’t know where to move first.

To be fair, a full accessibility makeover can be a bit overwhelming (the most recent online ADA standards list 50 success criteria).

Thankfully, you can create some quick wins right now. You can improve access to print materials without reprogramming a website or reworking an entire brand. And you can do it in just a few minutes.

Here are 9 quick ways to make everyday print materials more readable – not just for readers with disabilities, but for everyone.

  1. Use left alignment for text. It’s more natural and easier to read.
  2. Avoid italics and underlining for emphasis. Stick to bold and don’t confuse things.
  3. Use sentence case in headlines and subheads (like the title of this article). ALL CAPS can be difficult for readers with visual disabilities.
  4. Keep your reading level at around grade 7-9 or lower. Shorter words, shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs are a reader’s friend.
  5. Have a consistent hierarchy. Move logically from title to subhead to section to list; don’t mix and match or skip levels.
  6. Choose 1-2 clear, reader-friendly typefaces. We suggest avoiding narrow or overly decorative type.
  7. Speaking of type, body copy should be 10 pt or higher, headlines and subheads at least 14 pt – all depending on your audience’s needs.
  8. Remember to add white space. Visual breathing room created by shorter line length and negative space helps with information retention.
  9. Avoid large blocks of reverse text. It can work if done with enough contrast and a larger text size, but it might be more trouble than it’s worth.

For ADA-compliant electronic documents

  • Add alt text for images in Word, just like web pages.
  • Use the program’s built-in formatting styles for headers, captions, etc.
  • Convert your document to PDF format for easier assistive reading.

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