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The RNLI saves lives at sea without prejudice.

Lifeboat crew and lifeguards rescue people regardless of their background. This principle has existed for more than 190 years.

The RNLI is committed to promoting an inclusive and diverse culture. We are committed to making RNLI communications accessible to everyone, online and offline. This is an ongoing process and we’re seeking to improve in this area.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires the RNLI as a service provider to take reasonable steps to ensure that all printed material and marketing activities are accessible to people with disabilities.

We can make RNLI communications more accessible to visually impaired people at little, or no, additional cost. Visually impaired people are blind or partially sighted.

Give careful consideration to these Accessibility Guidelines when you are planning a communication.

If you require further advice you should contact the RNLI Creative Brand Manager on 01202 663282.


Keep design simple in RNLI communications to ensure our messages stand out. Keep the number of elements (colours, fonts etc) to a minimum. Every element used should be there for a reason.


The RNLI brand typefaces are Bliss and DIN. Arial is the default font. Do not use any other fonts.

Consider using 12 point type size where possible online and offline. The Royal National Institute of Blind People advises that for a general audience you should use at least 12 point.

  • If you are using smaller text, give the text enough leading (the space between lines) so as not to appear cramped.
  • Avoid block capitals for continuous text. Block capitals should only be used for headings or short sentences.
  • Avoid hyphenation at the end of lines where possible.
  • Justify text left rather than full justification.


  • Word and letter spacing should be even.
  • Lines should not be condensed or stretched to fit line length.
  • Unjustified right-hand margins are preferred.
  • Ideally line length should be 50–65 characters for an A4 publication.
  • Words should not be split at the ends of lines.
  • Allow sufficient leading (spaces between lines of text). As a minimum use 2-point leading for 12 point; more for larger sizes.


An important factor affecting print legibility is the contrast between type and the paper/background on which it appears.

  • Black on white and black on yellow provide the best contrast.
  • Avoid low contrast mixes such as white on a grey background.
  • It is acceptable for white to be reversed out of a dark colour.
  • Running text across a photograph or illustration can impede readability and should not be used.
  • Ensure type is legible when overlaid on an image.
  • Use bands for highlighting text when overlaid on a busy image.


  • Do not cram the page – keep it clear and simple.
  • Each communication should, wherever possible, include a list of contents with differentiated headings. Rules to separate unrelated sections can avoid confusion.
  • Try to avoid fitting words around images because of inconsistent line lengths. If you do fit words around images, place the text to the left of the image, where possible.
  • If double columns are used the columns should be clearly separated. A rule should be used.
  • Leave sufficient space for filling in handwritten details on forms. Visually impaired people tend to have larger-than-average writing.

Print stock

  • Choose paper that isn’t too glossy for printing. Glossy papers reflect too much light.
  • Show-through can be a problem if a low paper weight is used. 

Main alternative formats

Alternative formats will not need to be produced in all cases, although in certain circumstances they should be available on demand.

Large print

Large print – 16 point or larger – plain text is cheap, relatively simple to produce and accessible to many visually impaired people without the need for specialist equipment.


CD-ROMs or digital audio files (such as MP3) can be used for visually impaired people and also for people with learning disabilities (script may have to be specially prepared). Lead time is short.


Unit costs for producing Braille can be high. There are two grades: grade one is a letter-by-letter transcription; grade two, more common, is shorter and cheaper to produce. Not all visually impaired people can read Braille.


Signed and subtitled videos are particularly useful. Apart from deaf people, DVD is used by people with learning disabilities and, perhaps surprisingly, visually impaired people. For many deaf people British Sign Language is their first language. Often deaf people have low levels of literacy and, therefore, you should not assume printed material is sufficient.

Items for blind people can be posted free of charge under the Royal Mail Articles for the Blind scheme.


There are a number of basic principles for creating websites that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. When these principles are used, they also make content accessible to a variety of web-enabled devices.

By law all websites must be at least Single A compliant, in conjunction with W3C’s published standards. Where possible, the RNLI endeavours to make its official sites Double A compliant. Follow the tips below and go to W3C for more guidance.

  • Consider using 12 point type size.
  • Check the text is resizable up to 200% without losing information, using a standard browser. Make sure re-sized text doesn’t overlap into the content around it.
  • Check the default foreground and background colour combinations provide sufficient contrast.
  • Do not use colour as the only way of conveying information or identifying content.
  • Avoid using images of text where possible. If used, check they’re resizable.
  • Make sure your headings are in hierarchical order (H1, H2) so a person using a screen reader can easily navigate around the page.
  • Make sure links open in the same window rather than new tabs.
  • Give images and hyperlinks descriptions as well as alt tags.
  • Only use tables when you have headings in rows and columns.
  • Make sure users can pause, stop, or adjust the volume of audio that is played on a website.
  • Include a site map.


See the guidelines on the W3C website and contact the Email Production Manager for more information on 01202 663188.


On-the-page advertising can be made accessible to visually impaired people by using a sufficiently large point size. TV advertising can be signed and subtitled. Radio is suitable for a visually impaired audience. There are also a number of journals produced in Braille and audio.

Direct marketing

It is important that good response and distribution arrangements are in place.

Response mechanisms should include: coupon, telephone, SMS and textphone.