Designing Your Annual Report with Accessibility in Mind

Aug 10, 2021Print Design

An annual report communicates the financial position of your organization for the previous year. This is important information for transparency to stockholders and donors to make decisions about investing in your organization.

According to the Council of Nonprofits, your annual report can “build donor trust.” Another way to build donor trust is by making your annual report accessible. But what does it mean to include accessibility in your annual report design? Good design communicates your message clearly. Accessible design means communicating that message to everyone, including readers with vision impairments, hearing challenges, and learning & communications differences.

Your annual report is more than just a profit and loss statement. It is also a valuable marketing tool which can reflect the persona and dynamics of your organization. Your report can highlight activities from the past year, including: events, new construction, certifications, and goals met. By designing your annual report with accessibility in mind, you are also showing readers that you are inclusive. Remember, it is always more convincing to show than to tell.

Traditionally, the annual report has been a printed piece, and depending on the size of the organization could be anywhere from four pages to hundreds of pages in length. As with every other aspect of business, most companies are moving online to offer a digital version of their annual report to their stakeholders.

This means there are two mediums to consider when designing your annual report for accessibility: digital and print.

Many people with vision impairments and communications differences use screen reader apps to interpret web pages for them. Screen readers read text and describe elements on a page. Deaf and blind readers may use screen readers to convert text to braille. When designing, consider that what is “seen” on the page, will also be “described” by an application.

Here are some considerations for digital design:

  • Can all functions be completed on the keyboard? Not everyone uses a mouse to slide over items they wish to click.
  • Using large clickable buttons is an aid to people with limited manual dexterity.
  • Do not imbed words in images (Screen readers won’t capture these.)
  • Add alt text and titles to images.

Some guidelines apply to both digital and print versions:

  • When choosing a font, use regular instead of condensed or extended fonts for readability.
  • Contrast type color and background color. Print out your page in black and white to test.
  • Repeat the content of overly ornate display fonts in a more easily read serif font.
  • Column width should be wider than newspaper, but not across the entire page. Narrow columns increase the need for hyphenation, and very wide columns make it easier to lose one’s place when reading from one line to the next.
  • Flush left is more easily read than justified, which can create rivers of white space due to inconsistent word spacing.
  • Avoid all caps because all readers rely on the shapes of words for quick recognition.

Additional print-only considerations:

  • Uncoated paper reduces glare.
  • Two-sided pages need to be on heavier stock to eliminate bleed-through.
  • Do not place images or designs behind the text.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. When choosing images for your annual report, include photos of the clients you serve and the larger, diverse community. Conduct a photo search for varying ethnicities, cultural groups, ages, and people with disabilities.

Writing, designing, and producing your annual report is a huge responsibility. There are a lot of factors to consider, and Redstart Creative’s team of professional designers is here to help you create an annual report that conveys your yearly status and converts new donors or investors. Ask us how you can get started.

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