Skip to Main Content
University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

Skills Guides



What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about making things so they can be used by as many people as possible. This might include digital devices and applications, physical spaces, events, documents and files, and all sorts of other things.

On this page, we particularly focus on digital accessibility, which involves areas like integrating accessibility into designing digital content like websites, resources, documents, and applications and using accessibility features with digital devices to get the most out of that technology.

If you're designing digital material like documents, websites, apps, and much more, universal design principles will help you to consider the broadest possible range of users from the start, which benefits everybody who uses that material. See our Designing for users guidance for more resources on this:

Accessibility features

Operating systems

Most operating systems these days have accessibility features built into them. For instance:

Microsoft Office

Office 365 has a number of accessibility features, including dictation, reading aloud, and live subtitling.

It also has an accessibility checker to help you in the creation of accessible documents.

Google Docs & Slides

Google Docs and Google Slides have "Type with your voice", which enables you to dictate. Whilst not as accurate as some tools, it is quite reliable. It works in around 40 languages and is found under the “Tools” tab.

If you are using screen magnification software or braille conversion software, you will need to activate the accessibility settings in Google Docs. These options are under “Tools” then “Accessibility Settings”.

Google Chrome

If you are using Google Chrome as your default browser, there are a few settings which can improve access there. Font size can be changed by selecting the "⋮" menu at the end of the browser toolbar, and then selecting "Settings" from the drop down menu. Any changes you make to browser display would then be applied to webpages you visit through the browser (e.g. enlarging font across each website you visit), which should give a more consistent appearance between webpages, and can also help with migraines.

There are also some free Chrome extensions which might be of interest. We would only recommend using extensions and apps from trusted providers - those created by the manufacturers such as Google, Windows and Apple are typically the safest and most reliable for use with their products. Google has created free Chrome browser extensions which may be of use for a more comfortable online reading experience: 

Accessible reading

There are simple things you can do to help make reading easier, including:

  • using simple reader apps to remove distractions, adjust text and read aloud.
  • adjusting your screen's colour & brightness.
  • listening to a text.
  • organising your reading and references.

Find out more:

Accessibility tools for reading

Accessibility tools can help everyone in some way. The University provides some tools you can use for free to make things easier, particularly for digital reading and writing.

Whether you want to listen to journal articles, change font size and background colours, or see things more comfortably on a mobile or tablet, you'll find a range of tools here that can help you.

Converting files to different formats

You can use different file formats that are more accessible for you or to help you study effectively in different situations. For example, you could convert a PDF into an audio file so you can listen to it if your eyes are tired or you're walking, or you could convert it to an e-reader file that's easier to read on a tablet or to read online.

Forthcoming training sessions

Forthcoming sessions on :

Taught students
Show details & booking for these sessions

There's more training events at:

Creating accessible materials

If you're creating documents, there are a few pointers to easily improve accessibility:

  • Favour a sans-serif font – sans-serif fonts usually render clearer on digital displays.
  • Use a decent font size – as monitors get bigger, so do readable font sizes. Currently, anything less than 12pt is going to be quite small.
  • Caption images and video – provide explanatory text to images, either as a caption or as "alt text". Add subtitles or a transcript to video content.
  • Ensure sufficient contrast between any text and the background. This will assist reading on screen generally but is especially important in ensuring accessibility for those with visual impairments or colour blindness.
  • Use heading styles - this helps readers navigate your document easily and makes it easy to apply consistent formatting.

Our various guides include accessibility principles throughout, for instance:

Here's some specific advice on accessibility principles to consider when designing a slide deck presentation:

Accessible presentations

Some basic principles:

  • Always use the microphone, regardless of the room or your ability to project;
  • Repeat any questions from the floor, and read out in full any questions from the chat;
  • Build in breaks in long sessions (a couple of hours is a long session, especially if you're teaching online);
  • Keep your mouth clearly visible as much as possible;
  • Send joining instructions in advance so that people know what to do to attend. Send out teaching materials too; that way people can make any adjustments they might need to make to them ahead of the session;
  • For online sessions, ensure that there's a means to communicate with the host, be it via mic, chat or some other method (a Google Doc for instance);
  • If you record a session, more people might get to see what you have to say (regardless of what else was on that day), and they can also return to watch their favourite bits again after the fact;
  • Make use of captioning, and include captions and transcripts with any recording.

Some more useful links

Accessibility links