Using written information and printed materials accessibly

This content has been migrated from the Ministry of Health. It is in the process of being updated by Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People.

Guidelines for preparing written information for use within your engagement process.

Writing style and language

  • Use everyday language and avoid jargon. People with autism commonly have trouble understanding figures of speech, eg, ‘raining cats and dogs’, and may not understand irony or jokes.
  • You may need to provide an Easy Read translation of a document for people with learning/intellectual disabilities. A support person or meeting assistant may be able to assist the person to understand the documents prior to the meeting. Regardless, providing the information in advance to meeting assistants can help them be prepared to support the person during the event. See Engaging with intellectually disabled people.

Page layout

  • Have an identical margin width on either side of the text.
  • Set margins justified to the left, with the right margin unjustified.

Typefaces and formatting

  • To meet most people’s needs, use a larger-than-usual font size, and ensure the font size is never less than 12 points.
  • Produce a large print version (a minimum of 16-point font, but preferably 18) for people with vision impairments or those with learning/intellectual disabilities.
  • Use plain sans-serif fonts (a font without the ‘serifs’ or small lines attached to the bottom of letters or symbols), such as Arial, Tahoma or Calibri.
  • Use standard capital and lower case sentences, even in headings: text in all-capitals is harder to read. Use bold text for emphasis, rather than italics, which are harder to read. Reserve underscored text for hyperlinks.


  • Information provided in table formats is sometimes incompatible with screen reader software packages used by blind people or those with vision impairments. Tables are also difficult when producing large print – think about ways you could present the same information without a table. See Using images, diagrams, graphs and tables accessibly.

Graphics and images

PDFs and Word files

  • Many PDF files (eg, scanned documents) are incompatible with screen reader software packages (which turn text into speech), and therefore people with vision impairments might find it difficult to use them. In this case, publish a Word document or HTML version (if you are publishing on the web) alongside PDFs.
  • Electronic Word documents are generally accessible to people with low or no vision if they are using electronic screen readers. You may also consider providing an audible version of a document (eg, in a DVD/CD or MP3 file) or a Braille translation. Discuss participants’ preferences in this regard ahead of time.

Paper quality and colour

  • Use paper thick enough so that text from the other side of the page will not show through.
  • Use non-reflective paper in white or pale colours, and print in a dark colour, preferably black: high-contrast text is easier to read.
  • Avoid colour combinations with low contrast (eg, blue print on a green background).