Within this section you’ll find our general musings and updates, along with a Spotlight section where we shine a light on individual members.
Event write up by Terry Ponsford, regular attendee
When I saw the title for the day’s event, and the list of speakers, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Attending in person proved to be a really good decision, but for those who couldn’t, virtual attendance was also an option.
If those in the room were feeling a bit on edge, the ice was broken by technical issues that had emerged since the test set up – laughter ensued and we were reminded of old times and being amongst friends. The relaxed atmosphere contributed to an absorbing afternoon, listening to each of the speakers and the messages they shared.
My reaction to the day was how little I knew about day-to-day issues and problems faced by many people with written text, in documents, webpages or social media, and how narrow my understanding was, and is. For me, anyone who is blind or has diagnosed sight issues needs support with the written word, but I hadn’t automatically included anyone with cataracts (mine are apparently slow growing) and why some documents or webpages take more effort to read or engage with.
All the speakers were engaging and shared different experiences – watching or listening to their videos is strongly recommended. For me, Callum Russell of CrystalEyes spoke with a commanding ease, remarking on the technical issues at the start of the meeting as well as
talking about the barriers that exist for anyone with sight or mobility issues.
My big takeaways from the day were:
- The 20:20:20 rule shared by Shalni Sood of the Royal Society for Blind Children. To
reduce eye strain, for every 20 minutes looking at a screen, look away at something 20 feet
away for 20 seconds.
- Also shared by Shalni was a technique for resting your eyes by blocking out light with
the palms of your hands.
- The work of the Royal Society for Blind Children is to support children up to the age
of 25 and their families, including parents and grandparents. Their website,
rsbc.org.uk, is, of course, an excellent example of accessibility requirement design in
- Thanks go to Frederik Dessau and Morten Hald Mortensen of Omnidocs for sharing
their geeky love of documents and how accessibility is achieved using a PDF/UA document
- Katie Humphries of Accessibility Made Easy shared her Top 10 Tips (quick wins) for
documents, emails and social media. No special software needed, just some commonsense
and jargon-free text.
- The panel of Rachel Baiden, Gill Garrod (both of Squire Patton Boggs), and
Chloe Parfitt and Sally Short (both of Burges Salmon) shared their highs and lows of
introducing accessibility into their firms, including training materials.
- Callum Russell reminded us that accessibility is a legal requirement under the
Equality Act 2010.
By the end of the day, my mind was spinning with everything I’d seen and heard and the realisation how much more work there is to do within electronic communications.
I drafted this write-up in Word, and tried to embrace the tips I’ve picked up, creating my own accessible blank template using the basic Microsoft Word styles. It was interesting to see that the Title style used Arial font but it changed to Calibri when the Subtitle style was selected. I used the Read Aloud function to review what I’d written. Just a little experiment, and more work definitely needs to be done, but I’ve started to appreciate the need for accessibility.
Document Automation Specialist
TerryP Consultancy Limited
Terry has over 30 years experience in Document Automation, and has helped many organisations successfully deliver document automation and template projects. She has a wealth of document automation expertise and is experienced in delivering solutions – template development, implementation planning, methodology development – to help organisations quickly create cost-effective applications.
The theme of this year's 'DEG Day' was accessibility and adaptability. We are sincerely grateful to the Royal Society for Blind Children and in particular Shalni Sood (Director of Philanthropy) and Callum Russell (Trustee) for their insightful presentation into the reality of living and working with vision impairments and for providing much food for thought which some members have already taken back to their own organisations to lobby for a review to identify where improvements can be made. For anyone wishing to do the same, please note that Callum is also the founder of Crystal Eyes which offers training, guidance and advice in this respect.
You may notice a slight change in the DEG brand colours which has been made following the help and advice of the various expert presenters and which we hope makes our own communications more accessible in future.
Finally, our panel of innovators shared their experiences of introducing and implementing an accessibility framework within their organisations. Thank you to Rachel Baiden (Global Technology Training Manager and LTC4 Contributing and Board Member), Gill Garrod (Technology Trainer) – Squire Patton Boggs, and Chloe Parfitt (Digital Learning Manager) and Sally Short (Digital Learning Specialist) – Burges Salmon for such an inspiring view of what those organisations have achieved and the approaches adopted, challenges overcome and plans for the future. We are pleased to be able to provide access to these panel-suggested resources for those eager to know more.
A huge thank you to all who attended the event, whether in person or virtually; and particularly to our presenters, and our sponsors:
Terry Ponsford, one of our regular contributors, provided us with an excellent write up of the event; we really appreciate her taking the time to share her thoughts on the proceedings.
Our Document Excellence Day panellists - Rachel Baiden and Gill Garrod (Squire Patton Boggs), and Chloe Parfitt and Sally Short (Burges Salmon) outlined the approaches their organisations have taken to adopt changes to improve accessibility. They also shared some helpful resources, which we're delighted to be able to pass on for your benefit.
Creating Documents and Web Content
- Accessibility Made Easy: Accessibility Made Easy has guides and videos on how to make your content more accessible.
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative: Strategies, standards, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2: Current standards (revised 5th October 2023)
- Make Things Accessible: useful guidance on creating accessibility statements, guidelines on WCAG 2.1 and changes with WCAG 2.2 and much more
- Accessibility Insights for Web: helps developers find and fix accessibility issues in web apps and sites, useful for an LMS
- Evaluating Web Accessibility: W3C WAI Resources Overview: YouTube video
- Accessibility Audits and Testing | AbilityNet: Audits, conformant statements, and accreditation.
- Microsoft Accessibility: Products and tools available based on requirements.
- Disability Answer Desk Support | Microsoft Accessibility: accessibility tips
- How to make a PDF accessible: – YouTube video
- Grammarly: Grammarly is a content writing and grammar checker.
- Hemmingway App: The Hemingway App is a free online tool that highlights issues with your content.
- WebAIM Contrast Checker: Use the WebAIM colour contrast checker to make sure your colours provide good contrast and are clear.
- Color Safe: Color Safe helps you create accessible colour palettes for your brand, based on WCAG Guidelines of text and background contrast ratios.
- Microsoft Word has a reading ease checker under ‘document stats’ in the spellcheck. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. You want the score to be between 60 and 70.
- PowerPoint and Word accessibility checkers are available under Review > Check accessibility
NB: Do check any tools that review your content are permitted by your organisation - there may be security restrictions to consider.
Accessibility and Training
- How to apply WCAG accessibility standards in eLearning - Learn Studios: Article.
- Accessibility Insights for Web: helps developers find and fix accessibility issues in web apps and sites, useful for an LMS.
- How to Design Accessible Learning Content with Susi Miller: YouTube video. They are plenty more Susi Miller videos available on YouTube.
- Diane Elkins Design Accessible Systems Training: Video.
At our recent event, where we discussed accessibility for all, Katie Humphries from Accessibility Made Easy provided us with these top 10 tips for improving accessibility when working with documents. Read on to find out her suggestions, or download a copy of her tips as a PDF.
1. Keep it simple
- Don’t assume that everyone has the same level of knowledge as you
- Avoid jargon or complex terms
- Type out acronyms the first time you use them
2. Choose an accessible font
- Use Sans Serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Calibri, Tahoma)
- Minimum 12 point
- Ensure you have sufficient colour contrast
3. Don't overuse formatting
- Don’t use all caps
- Don’t bold whole paragraphs
- Avoid italics
- Only underline links
- Left align text
4. Write useful alternative text
- Keep it short and simple
- Think about context (a family hugging at a party is different to a family hugging at a funeral)
- Don’t put text in images - screen readers can't read them, unless you provide alternative text
- Mark graphics as 'decorative' where appropriate
5. Only use tables for data
- Don’t use tables for design purposes
- Always have a heading column and/or row
- Don’t use merged fields, avoid empty cells
6. Use meaningful link text
Screen reader users need to know where a link is going.
Read more about us
7. Use headings correctly
- Don’t just bold text
- Use styles in Word, not manually applied direct formatting
- Use headings in the correct order
- Add a table of contents
8. Make use of free tools
(If permitted by your organisation - do check if there are any security restrictions you need to comply with.)
- Grammarly text checker
- Hemingway editor
- Colour contrast checkers
- Word reading ease checker
- Colorsafe accessible colour palettes
9. Test it!
- Use the built-in accessibility checkers in Word and PowerPoint
- Bear in mind these tools won’t show you all errors, like missing headings
10. Offer alternatives
- Provide alternative contact details
- Don’t offer QR codes in insolation, provide alternatives
- Easy read or plain English alternatives
- Consider - Does it need to be a document at all? Could it be a more accessible web page instead?
October 11th 2023 is Document Excellence Day. This year we come together to discuss accessibility, and consider how we make our documents accessible to everyone, regardless of abilities, environment and devices.It seems fitting that this should be a hybrid event – available virtually for our wider community, and in-person for anyone able to be in London.
The activities will start with Registration for the In-Person event at 13:15 and virtually at 13:30 BST / 14:30 CET / 08:30 EDT / 05:30 PDT. The in-Person event will be held at Allen & Overy, One Bishops Square. London, E1 6AD and there will be an opportunity to join us for networking at the same venue.
We have an interesting programme lined up including:
Shalni Sood – Director of Philanthropy and Callum Russell – Trustee at the Royal Society for Blind Children and Founder of Crystal Eyes will talk about the vital importance of considering the vision impaired in the workplace.
Frederik Dessau (Chief Experience Officer) and Morten Hald Mortensen (CTO, Partner) – Omnidocs will give an insight into what accessibility is all about in the document space.
Katie Humphries (Founder) – Accessibility Made Easy will show us how to make our documents more accessible so everyone, no matter their ability, can access them.
Rachel Baiden (Global Technology Training Manager and LTC4 Contributing and Board Member), Gill Garrod (Technology Trainer) – Squire Patton Boggs and Chloe Parfitt (Digital Learning Manager) and Sally Short (Digital Learning Specialist) – Burgess Salmon will discuss how they have developed a robust framework and ensured knowledge is shared across the training team.
During the break there will be some great tips on managing your emails from Heather Morrow (Loeb) and Kelly Taylor (Milbank) to watch for virtual attendees (which will also be made available on the website after the event.
Event write up by Jackie Armstrong, regular attendee
It was so lovely to see lots of familiar faces (some in person and some online) as well as some new ones at the recent ILTA Education SIG, DEG and LTC4 meeting discussing the world of legal digital skills training. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the meeting at Milbank LLP’s offices in person which was a real treat.
There were some insightful discussions around how we can deliver effective training in a hybrid environment and indeed should we even be attempting to do that? My view is that training should be either face to face or remote (for us Zoom) and not a mix of the two as it is very difficult to make the remote attendees feel included. However, there is new technology coming along all the time that can help with that so it may be that in the future it will be easier to achieve a hybrid training session that is satisfactory to all participants.
There were lots of other thought provoking discussions including how chat bots could help provide “just in time” training and how we can adapt to ever changing technology (for example the Microsoft 365 updates).
As always, the time just flew by and before we knew it the meeting had ended. Thank you so much to all who organised, hosted and took part in the meeting. I can’t wait for the next one!
IT Training Lead
Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP
Jackie is an IT Training Lead for Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP. She currently leads a team of 3 trainers who deal with business as usual training as well as project training. She has worked in the legal field for most of her working life and for the last 12 years as a Legal IT Trainer for a number of large law firms. She and her team are involved from an early stage in any upcoming projects, and are able to advise on the level and methods of training required to ensure good user adoption. Jackie and her team pride themselves on being subject matter experts in all the applications they support having been involved in the creation and updating of training material including quick reference guides, eLearning and short videos.
We all have our lifehacks for saving time and making things easier – the same goes for working on our documents. We love an opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other, so thanks to everyone that sent their favourite tips and tricks - from the little known, to the most popular - so that Clare could share them for everyone to benefit.
If you weren't able to join live, do watch the recording to find out what we learnt from each other at this virtual event.
Recordings from our previous events are also available on our Webinars page.
We'll be producing a quick reference guide detailing some of our favourite tips from the session, but in the meantime we'd like to share thoughts from Theresa Milmoe (European IT Trainer for Maples Group), who attended the session:
The "oooh" moments. As Clare said herself, it's what every trainer wants to hear in a training session. We know we've shared something that's going to save time or add value for whatever reason to the participants.
In the Tips and Tricks Excel and PowerPoint session, we had lots of silent "oooh" moments, in the Chat. Where lots of attendees (our informed DEG peers) were excited by some functionality that they weren't aware of before. For me, in PowerPoint it was holding the Shift key when creating shapes to ensure a pure square/circle/triangle, and the very topical Accessibility in PowerPoint – points to consider for future in house sessions!
In Excel, Alt + "+" for the Sum function. Right Clicking the Fill handle (why did I never do this before?) to only fill weekdays! and Ctrl + A, Alt & Shift, then right click to Copy as Path. I've been doing this via OneNote, and Copy text from picture, if it's a long list this would save so much time!
Event write up by Hanneke ter Veen-Hockney, regular attendee
“If you don’t design for accessibility, it’s like saying to every fifth person who walks in your door, ‘I don’t really want your business.’”*
That’s 20% of your (potential) clients, but also of your (potential) employees. And that’s why, Julia Satov of Litera reminded us, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is so important. Making your documents, but also presentations, elearning, website, signage, and video conferences accessible from the outset ensures your clients and employee talent always feel welcome (and not just after they’ve had to ask for adjustments).
Julia was very honest and inspirational in saying that her organisation is not there yet, but their aspiration is to make their products and workplace accessible. By learning about the needs of their clients and employees. By putting accessibility at the forefront. Events like this one will hopefully help us all to learn about and normalise accessibility.
There is so much to learn on the topic. A list of all the knowledge and suggestions from the meeting would be a useful start. Here are some I remember:
- Richard MacDougall mentioned he recently learned to add Alt text descriptions to any images for people with vision impairments.
- The panel gave a brief demonstration of the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft PowerPoint and Word (on the Review tab > Accessibility), and Adobe Acrobat.
- Julia suggested listing what accessible resources your organisation has.
- The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) give helpful advice on accessible websites.
- And my personal favourite: Accessibility made Easy (you can also follow them on LinkedIn).
Thankfully, accessibility is becoming easier with software providers like Microsoft and Adobe building it into their products. There is also a lot we can do to bake accessibility into our document templates and processes, like enabling subtitles in Zoom meetings. And as a trainer, I can build (checking for) accessibility into my PowerPoint, Word and house style sessions.
What could you do to welcome the 20%?
*quote by Bert Floyd, Team Lead of Assistive Technologies TD Bank, Canada, from the DEG panel presentation
Hanneke ter Veen-Hockney
Senior IT Training Consultant
As we consider the changes made in every workplace to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we realise the progress we have made is remarkable. Over the decades we have widened entranceways, cut ramps into our walkways, provided facilities accessible to all, opened educational and career opportunities to women and the underserved ...along with myriad other efforts to diversify the workplace, treat all with the human dignity we deserve, and make available the technologies that help us all succeed.
But what are we doing to leverage technological improvements to make our documents “accessible”?
During our April event we discussed the following questions:
- Why is it important to consider accessibility for our documents?
- How can we make your documents more accessible?
- What features we are leveraging to make our document collections accessible?
- What can we do to support this initiative?
If you weren't able to join us, or wish to recap any elements of the discussion, you can access the recording on our Event Recordings page, or review the slide deck: DEG Roundtable-Accessibility in Documents.
One of our regular attendees Hanneke ter Veen-Hockney provided her thoughts on the event in this useful and interesting writeup. Thanks Hanneke!
Event write up by Sharon Gordon, regular attendee
The DEG event, Manipulating and Managing PDFs, that took place in February 2023 was very enlightening, and I am very glad I was able to attend as I learned a lot about PDFs and how they are being used today.
I recall many years ago when PDFs were fairly new, it was used so that people couldn't edit or manipulate the contents of a document. Fast forward to today and that is definitely a thing of the past.
I have been using PDFs for a very long time throughout my life and in my careers and I still picked up lots of new information about them and I have to say, things have changed with PDFs a lot!
What I found fascinating was the way in which PDFs can now be edited and manipulated like a Word document. How did we get here? That was one of the questions asked during the event and I was very interested to hear what reasons were given for this. One answer given was that people wanted to be able to manipulate scanned documents and to restyle them. That's fine, but why can't this be done in Word?
All the speakers participating in the event, Lee Trevallion, Michael Lawton, Sheila Quansah-Solomon and Rob Simcock, were very knowledgeable and answered all the questions they were asked fully and thoroughly and shared so much information about the life of PDFs. I would like to say thank you to the team for all the information they shared with the group. I found it very, very useful and I can now share that information in my own training sessions.
Thank you to DEG for putting on this and other events and I look forward to attending more in the future.
IT Trainer and Change Specialist
SG Web Craft Ltd.
Sharon is an IT Trainer and Change Specialist who helps businesses to navigate their system changes to ensure a smooth transition and encourage good use of new software and/or ways of working and she is currently contracting for a high street retailer in their Communications and Change Management team. As well as creating and updating training guides and videos, she does training where required and helps with firmwide communications regarding system updates. She has worked in the legal and financial field for many years.
If training is identified as required during a transition period, Sharon will create and deliver the relevant courses, create training documentation and videos and be the ‘go-to’ person for any questions following training.
A big thanks to everyone that joined in our event on the benefits and challenges of working with PDFs. This was a virtual event with a lively discussion led by Sheila Quansah-Solomon and Joanne Humber, joined by Michael Lawton (Kofax), Lee Trevallion (Kofax) and Rob Simcock (Kutana). We also had many questions and contributions from the 90 attendees that joined us.
The topics discussed included some background of the PDF format, as well the real world challenges of manipulating PDFs, the tools available when working with them, and considerations that should be taken into account now that editing PDFs has become more accessible:
- PDF as a document format and its intended workflow
- Benefits of PDF vs other document formats
- The need to manipulate… and who is driving this?
- What are the challenges?
- Are security, compliance, signatures, etc compromised in the process?
- Maintaining compatibility
- PDF formats, what are they and are they needed?
- What’s new in PDF software features?
- Is there a danger of PDFs becoming another editable format?
This session was recorded; and is available to view here: Event Recordings page.
A big thanks to our member Sharon Gordon, who provided her thoughts on the event: Manipulating PDFs – member write-up
Virtual: Manipulating PDFs – Join the DEG community on 22 February. We'll be exploring the real world challenges of manipulating PDFs, the tools available when working with them, and considerations that should be taken into account now that editing PDFs has become more accessible. We’ll also discuss the implications of manipulating a PDF when you shouldn’t, and get some tips from the experts.
This will be a virtual event available to our international community, with the time scheduled as follows:
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm (GMT)
11:00 am to 12:00 pm (EST)
8:00 am to 9:00 am (PST)
If you would like to register for this event, please complete this form, so that joining instructions can be sent to you.
January brought us something of a bonanza - with two events running back to back on the 22nd, and an opportunity for networking in-person for anyone in London. The topics covered at the two round-tables were "Ask the Experts", and Microsoft Teams.
A big thanks to our sponsor Kofax for supporting these events.
In-person (London)/Virtual: Ask the experts - Our panel and an expert audience discussed document production initiatives and solutions to common challenges. This was our first in-person event for a while, with Milbank opening their new office in London to us as a venue. In addition large number of attendees from around the world were able to join via Zoom. For those able to join in-person in London, there was a networking event with food and drinks and lively conversation afterwards.
Virtual: DEG Teams Talk: A roundtable discussion about the journey to Microsoft Teams - This was an in-depth discussion chaired by Richard MacDougall, with input from Sherry Kappel, Tracy Kraft, Pat Mansuy, as well as the attendees providing their own experiences. Much useful information was shared, with the conversation included tips for getting the best out of Teams, (including features) we might not be aware of, best practices, and governance considerations.
Watch the recording here:
Thanks again to Joanne Humber for her write up of the proceedings.
On January 25th, the DEG Organising Committee are excited to be able to bring two round table events to our community:
- Ask the Experts (Virtual and In-person - London)
- DEG Teams Talk (Virtual)
For anyone able to attend in-person in London, there will also be the opportunity to network afterwards at a nearby venue.
To find out more about either event, click here.
Once again, our Document Excellence Day was held as a virtual event, allowing attendees to join from all over the world. Sessions were hosted in the U.K. and U.S. - it was fabulous to hear from our wonderful speakers, as well as the enthusiastic contributions to discussion from all the attendees.
A big thanks to everyone that helped make this day possible, especially our sponsors this year, who were:
We're pleased to welcome Martin Dentith onto the Organising Committee. Martin has worked in the legal IT sector for over 15 years, working with a variety of UK Legal 500 law firms. Currently with Simmons & Simmons LLP, he is the defacto go-to person for all things document related within the Simmons & Simmons family. He has a passion for delivering intuitive and innovative solutions to streamline the document creation and maintenance process and also works closely with the M&BD department to deliver legal documents that are more engaging to the client, alongside delivering a strong brand experience.
Thank you to all the speakers and panelists who have given up their time to discuss and educate us on a variety of topics around the theme of "The Future – New Core Challenges”.
Thank you to our sponsors
your support is invaluable to us
Check out the agenda for the Document Excellence Day. You can Download it here.