Document Excellence Day 2023 – Accessibility and Adaptability

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Also shared by Shalni was a technique for resting your eyes by blocking out light with
    the palms of your hands.
  3. 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,, is, of course, an excellent example of accessibility requirement design in
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

You can download my original draft written in Word here.

Terry Ponsford
Document Automation Specialist
TerryP Consultancy Limited

Terry Ponsford

Terry Ponsford

About Terry

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.