AccessAbility Playbook - Play 5 Make communications accessible for everyone

Play 5 Make communications accessible for everyone

Use plain language

To communicate in plain language doesn't mean over-simplifying or leaving out critical information. When you use plain language, it actually makes critical information accessible and understandable for everyone.

When you write and speak plainly and simply, you:

  • increase the chances that people will find, read and understand your information from any device;
  • make your information more accessible to persons with disabilities;
  • allow people who are reading your information on a small screen to see essential information first;
  • save resources when editing and translating your text;
  • improve task completion and cut costs by, for example, reducing enquiries.

When communicating with clients, communications products and activities must be accurate, organized and accessible. Be simple, clear and concise with your key messages, services and storyline. Use language that is easy to read and understand, and include common language, images and similar references across all products and channels.

Always check the reading level of your text. Readability tools help you check if content is too wordy or complex. When content is at a reading level above grade 8, it can become difficult for many people to understand or complete their task.

Is your Web really accessible? Progress is being made on the technical aspects of accessible web standards but plain language is an often overlooked part of that standard.

Choose the right words and sentences

  • Choose simple and common words;
  • Use verbs instead of nouns formed from verbs;
  • Avoid jargon, idioms and expressions;
  • Use simple sentences;
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs;
  • Limit each paragraph to one idea and keep it short.

Inform the right way

  • Minimize the amount of information clients must process all at once;
  • Use headings, lists, and tables to make reading easier;
  • Use direct statement;
  • Use active voice and positive form;
  • Explain references to legislation.

Provide printed information the right way


Display your content (format and positioning) in a logical order for the reader to quickly know where to start and how to follow the information. Separate your text in columns and use 1.5 line spacing. Try not to overload your page.

Colour and contrast

Choose the right balance between your font colour and your background. Try light colours on dark backgrounds or the opposite. Use the same colour palette to choose colours that complement each other. Use a maximum of 3 colours per page. Avoid bright colours in text or images.

Font style and size

Choose something easy for the eye to recognize the outline and shape of each letter. Use a sans-serif font such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana. Create titles using a 48 points size. Format your text using a 14 or 16 point font size.

Type of format

Choose paper or printing material with a matte or uncoated finish to minimize glare.


Wayfinding systems

Space out all directional signs. Be selective in the amount of information you display. Use common terminology and keep all information up to date (especially in the case of relocation).

Wall-mounted signs

Use numbers and letters to identify rooms. Install anywhere from 1.2 to 1.5 meters above the finish floor. Apply the same height where possible.


Use audio wayfinding to provide additional support. Create multilingual content. Explore and test new technologies, from text-to-speech software to location-based mobile applications.

Type of format

Choose a matte or non-glare finish for your background or letter surfaces. Use tactile lettering and Braille for all permanent room signs. Use both uppercase and lowercase for tactile and non-tactile messaging. Use large bold print with square lettering such as Arial for pictorial signage.

Provide online information the right way


Choose a structure that allows all options to adapt to any platform or device such as desktop computers, tablets and mobiles. Use headings to allow screen readers to detect the reading order.


Add “alt text” to describe a picture, photo, graph or table. Try not to overlap a text over an image or busy background.

Audio and video files

Use transcripts and captions with alternative text-based format to describe any content. Include sub-titles and format your text using a 20 points size. Use a white font on a black background.

Content development

Apply the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 principles. Make sure your design is supported by several browsers, devices and assistive technologies.

Avoid the use of too many capital letters, italics or underlines. This may be difficult to read. It may even change the original tone and meaning of your message.

Do… Don’t…
Follow a linear, logical layout Spread content all over a page
Describe images and provide transcripts for video Only show information in an image or video
Build for keyboard use only Force mouse or screen use
Make large clickable actions Demand precision