Parish accessibility guidance

Much of the literature we use in our churches is inaccessible to many people. People can struggle to read materials for a variety of reasons including visual impairment, dyslexia and learning difficulties and disabilities. 

By not providing accessible written materials we are not following the law as laid down in the 2010 Equality Act, but more importantly we are creating barriers which exclude people from our church communities.

Just because someone hasn’t asked for something doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Many people will if they find a church inaccessible either not return or sit quietly unable to fully engage with the service but not wanting to create a fuss.  Literature that is in clear print is easier for everyone to read, not just those with visual impairments and usually leads to cleaner, smarter documents.

Top 10 tips for clear communications

  • Use a sans serif font such as Arial. For body copy, the equivalent if Arial 12pt is the minimum – it’s best to add pages and increase white space than to cram everything in, trying to fit on one side. Photocopying up to A3 makes printed material difficult to hold and can embarrass the individual. Use larger fonts such 16 to 20pt  for people who need large print but still print on A4 paper.
  • Always have a distinct contrast between the font colour and the paper, such as black text on white.  Avoid blue ink for the elderly as they find it harder to see blue. Large print with little contrast is more difficult to see than ordinary sized print with good contrast.
  • Avoid using italics, underlined or blocks of capital letters. Think about using different colours, a different font or font size for emphasis.
  • Ensure there is enough space between the lines on the page – a rough guide is to have 1.5 to 2 times the space between words.
  • Even spacing between words is important.  Some people benefit from slightly enlarging the spaces between letters and between words.
  • Using left side aligned text rather than justified or centered text allows people to easily follow from line to line especially true if they are using low vision aids such as magnifiers.
  • Allow plenty of clear space on the page around text, photos, charts etc. This allows people to locate the different things on the page.  Print captions above or below photos rather than on top of them.
  • Try and keep all text horizontal; vertical text can be confusing and difficult to read for many people.
  • Use cream or off-white nonglossy paper to reduce glare. For those with visual impairments, use uncoated paper weighing over 90gsm (photocopy paper usually weighs 80gsm). If the text is showing through from the reverse side, the paper may be too thin.
  • Do not use shadow graphics behind print.
  • Keep words simple and to a minimum.

Further Information

Always have a small number of large print copies available of all literature. For the learning disabled and the elderly, a minimum 16-18 point font is required.  Ensure that large print copies are out and available for people to pick up alongside regular print ones so people don’t have to ask. 

Since the Pandemic some churches have started to invite congregations to download services onto their phones to save wastage on paper and prevent cross infection.  This works for many people especially if they are available to download the orders at home so that they are able to load them on to a device that works for them and adjust the font appropriately. However, there will always be some people for whom reading a service order on a screen is problematic. For example for some the eyestrain caused by reading from a screen can be painful. In addition there are many  people who are unable to afford a phone or data to download. So some hard copy versions should always be available.

Be prepared to provide materials in a larger font or in alternative formats such as braille if requested. Some disabled people including those who are visually impaired often require  that material such news sheets and PowerPoint presentations are made available to them electronically in advance of an event, this enables them to read that material using their preferred method such as Ipads or tablets and use specialist access software where appropriate.  If you are providing materials in advance please avoid sending documents as PDFs  or Jpegs as these are hard for people to adjust.

To read more detailed guidance and understand more about why clear text is important, then please look at the ‘Disability and Jesus’ Clear Text guide which can be found at under ‘advice’. 

If you need any further advice or help in providing literature in additional format, please contact Alice Kemp, Diocesan Disability Advisor.

It may also be useful to read the ‘How to… Produce a great church notice sheet’ and the ‘How to.. Create accessible service order' guides.

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