When we think about accessibility, we often think first about physical accommodations such as ramps or elevators for mobility. Yet when it comes to group benefits, accessible communications are also critical to serve plan members effectively.

Think about someone who’s recovering from an accident while trying to figure out their medical coverage. Or a person whose loved one has died and is coping with grief while navigating life insurance coverage. What barriers to understanding information might they face? And more importantly ‒ how can you help?

Simple changes to language, design and format can make a difference. 

Use plain language
Use simple, straightforward language ‒ or plain language ‒ instead of an academic or more complicated writing style.

  • Use short words and avoid industry-specific jargon
  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short
  • Define abbreviations and complex terms if you can’t avoid using them
  • Use active rather than passive verbs and the first-person voice with a conversational tone (e.g., “You can call the helpline 24/7” instead of “The helpline can be called during and after business hours, seven days a week”)
  • Keep the reading level below grade 8 (tip: use the free trial page of the Hemingway Editor app to get reading-level scores and editing suggestions) 

Consider design
Small changes to the layout and design of your communications can make your content accessible to more people. 

  • Pick a font that’s easy to read, even when you or the reader resize the screen
  • Use headings to organize information and divide it into smaller chunks
  • Be aware that animation could cause sensitivity and seizures and include an option to pause animations where possible
  • Stick with high-contrast colours and avoid softer, similar hues (tip: use this free tool from TPGi, an accessibility services firm, to check if your design has enough contrast)
  • Use colour to help organize information

Format matters
The easiest way for one person to consume information may not be true for another person. So, try delivering your content in multiple formats.

  • Provide important communications in more than one format, for example, video along with a written explanation
  • Include closed captions for videos
  • Use alt text for website and social media images to make it easier for screen readers to interpret your content (tips: learn about alt text from Harvard University; get details on how to use it on social media platforms using this free resource from Accessible Social)

Get your partners to help
Re-working your member communications to be more accessible may seem like an overwhelming task. The good news is that the heavy lifting might already be done for you! Before you get to work on making changes to your communications, be sure to check in with your benefits provider or advisor. Some ensure all member communications are accessible and can provide you with ready-to-go documents and multimedia.

This article is brought to you by Canada Life, sponsor of Benefits Alliance’s “Take 5 for Wellness” newsletter.