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Help & guidance Data management

Accessible data

We are committed to making our archives as accessible as possible to the widest possible audience regardless of technology or ability. Wherever possible, depositors should provide data as accessible files. An overview of the key principles of accessibility and guidance on creating accessible data is available below.

Creating data with accessibility in mind means that you are trying to ensure the content can be accessed and understood by as wide an audience as possible. Some organisations, such as public bodies, may be required to make their data Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA compliant. Depositing data as accessible files ensures that data disseminated on the ADS website can be used by everyone, including a non-specialist audience and people with disabilities. Data should also be compatible with assistive technologies, such as screen reading software.

Creating Accessible Data

Some of the ways you can make your data accessible are:

1. Provide text alternatives for non-text content

Text alternatives should be provided for non-text content such as images, diagrams or graphs. If text data is deposited as an image file (for example, a photocopy of a letter or a site photograph including a chalk board with text) the data contained within the image is not accessible to people using screen readers. Depositors may wish to provide a transcription of text data deposited as an image file or to describe any relevant text in the image metadata.

Depositors should include video captions or audio transcriptions for multimedia for audio or video data. Transcripts and captions should include spoken information and sounds that are important for understanding the content.

2. Think about format

Some file formats may be more accessible than others and you should consider if the format used is suitable to record your data type. Tabular data for example, should be deposited as one of our accepted spreadsheet file formats where possible rather than being included in a Microsoft Word or PDF file. Additionally, if files are not formatted correctly they may be difficult for some people to use and navigate and may not work well with assistive technologies, such as screen readers.In some instances, a plain text file may be a more accessible alternative to a badly formatted Microsoft Word or PDF document, or a digitised document if the text is unclear. Guidance on creating accessible PDF documents is available on the Adobe website. Some software, such as Microsoft Word, includes a built in accessibility checker and guidance on making Word documents accessible is available on the Microsoft website.

3. Use clear language

Data should be presented in a way that is easy to understand. Using clear language makes your data accessible to people with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities and a non-specialist audience. You should define abbreviations, acronyms or technical terms when they are first used and if relevant in the file metadata. For example, any acronyms used in field names in a spreadsheet should be defined in the ‘field description’ section of the spreadsheet metadata.

4. Give data a structure

A simple and meaningful structure will help users navigate documents and other types of data. Where possible, complex layouts should be avoided and an appropriate heading structure should be used. A hierarchy of headings will allow screen readers to identify sections of content for the listener and will also allow documents to be navigated by their headings and subheadings.

Depositors should consider using bullet points, lists or tables to break up complex content to make the data presented easier to understand. Navigation tools such as a table of contents at the beginning of a document will also help users navigate the data.

5. Use consistent formatting

Data should be presented consistently with a text size and font that is easy to read. To work with a screen reader, spreadsheets or tables should not contain split or merged cells, completely blank rows or columns, or nested tables. The use of contrasting colours, justifying text to the left and avoiding the use of capital letters for continuous text can also make content more accessible. More information on accessible presentation and formatting is available on AbilityNet.

Further resources