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How to make a file accessible with the right ingredients and the POUR principles

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

Close up of two hands typing on a keyboard of an open laptop

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you have some idea of what makes a file accessible and most importantly, user friendly. What you may not know is that the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards which many of you will be aiming to meet are based on four principles, known as POUR, thus;

  • Perceivable

  • Operable

  • Understandable

  • Robust

And yes, while this is designed for web, it also extends out to documents which are uploaded to it, but in short, just makes for a very usable file. So, here’s more on POUR…


An accessible file’s contents have been presented in such a way that all users are able to interpret it, this can be done by:

  • Using alternative text or long descriptions for images, diagrams and charts.

  • Properly structuring content with headings, lists, tables and other types of content.

  • Creating content that is easy to see, and not relying on colour to convey information.


Different strokes for different folks, and as everyone uses technology differently, documents must be set up to enable users to navigate the various elements seamlessly. This area is especially beneficial to those who use assistive technology, and is made possible by:

  • Proper structuring, bookmarks, and table of contents.

  • Using descriptive link text instead of ‘Click here’


Stating the obvious, it’s important to be able to understand what you’re reading, and these few tips will help no end:

  • Use plain language so that your message can be easily read and understood by a far wider audience.

  • Use consistent visual styles throughout the document, especially for headings.

  • Please, make friends with the InDesign paragraph styles & Word styles, depending on your preferred platform. This saves time with formatting but most importantly works well with assistive technology.


If you have a well-structured accessible file, you have one which will work well with a range of technologies, especially assistive technology, and can be accessed by a far wider audience.

So that's the POUR principles...

And with them, users will be able to navigate your information quickly, easily and effectively. They will be able to access information in a way which is preferable to them, be it by sight or using assistive technology, and that's a win win in anyone's books.

Now you're aware of the principles, what changes will you make when planning your next document? Will it be adding alt text? Using plain language? Using the inbuilt styles? or all of it?

Ps. If you said using inbuilt styles, stay tuned for my next blog in which I'll be exploring further. And if you learnt something new, or think someone else may benefit from this, please feel free to share, I won't hate you for it! 😉

Are you ready to learn more? or do you need help with your next document? contact KC & the Graphics Bandwagon today.


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