Creating Accessible Community Psychology Documents and Websites-Some Helpful Tips

image of a word cloud using words associated with accessibility

Why Accessibility? What is Universal Design?

We want for our SCRA-affiliated and Community Psychology materials to be widely used and shared by our members and community. We want to share what we know in accordance with our own organizational values for social justice. Our communities are diverse and differently-abled in terms of how we use web-based and textual resources. Some considerations include, but are not limited to, visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological abilities.

Universal design is an attempt to thoughtfully assemble materials in ways that are most useable. A little bit of consideration in developing materials will go a long way towards making the your documents and webpages most useful for everyone; people with and without disabilities. Below are some tips from the SCRA Outreach Communications Specialist. While not an expert in Universal Design, she’d like to share some tips and strategies that she has used in developing materials for SCRA. Perhaps something in here is helpful in your work as well.

Tips for improved accessibility

Create a great mobile site or document

Fortunately, accessibility tools are more widespread and available than they were several years ago. You likely have at least a few on your smartphone and computer! Universal Design starts with good practice in document creation/web design including eliminating wordiness, thoughtful use of whitespace, etc.

Create a Searchable File Name

Twenty to 30 characters is ideal. No spaces.  The first letter of the file should be a letter. This makes file more navigable in a folder for assisted technologies.

Use Standard Templates and Auto layouts when possible

Many of the options on MS Word (for example) are accessible-friendly.

Use headings

Making something bold or italicized does not make it a heading. For assistive technologies, please use the relevant heading features.

Use bullets for lists

Don’t try to be creative with textboxes or graphics. If you need a list, just bullet it. Most readers can now read textboxes but read them all at the end of a document like a reference list.

Avoid italics and cursive if possible

These are difficult for e-readers.

Enter alt-text in images

In most cases, you can right click on an image and enter in alterative text explaining the image. This is particularly important for images that aid in understanding the text and/or charts and figures. Complex images should have more extensive descriptions. If you are working in MS Word, you can enter alternate text by right-clicking an image and selecting “Format Picture” and then selecting “Alt text”. Within the Format Picture dialog, select “Alt Text.”

Use color contrast for background and text

Some studies have shown that a dark background with white or very light lettering is most visible for low-vision readers. However, there is a tradeoff of the necessary ink that many of our other readers will use to print documents. In any case, use high contrast.

Use colors for fun; not understanding

Do not use tables, figures, or other visual effects that depend on differentiating colors. If you printed this newsletter in black and white, would you be able to interpret the graphic?

Use Sans Serif font

Serif fonts such as Times New Roman contain extra design elements. Sans serif fonts, such as Arial do not. Here is a list of some common Sans Serif fonts: Arial, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, and Verdana

Be sure that any attachments are also accessible

Accessible word documents do not necessarily retain their accessibility in .pdf Here is a page about how to preserve accessibility when you save in .pdf: This HHS site contains a checklist of accessibility for .pdf files

Additional Resources:

MS Office Assistive Technologies homepage:

PDF creation

APA Statement and Accessibility Tips

Have an idea to share? We welcome your suggestions and feedback at

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