Advice on how to build ID accessible websites.

Images are important. For people with intellectual disabilities, they are core content, not just decoration.

Pictures should communicate the content on the page, not just be an add on. Use icons for links. But be aware that it's hard for people with some intellectual disabilities to understand metaphors.

Alt attributes (which provide text alternatives for blind users with screen readers) still need to be used appropriately when designing sites with ID accessibility in mind.

In addition, symbol sets can be used to enhance understanding for some people with intellectual disabilities who are familiar with the symbols. There is a range of symbol sets, used in different contexts.

Symbol sets: supporting literacy with images


Makaton is best known as a Sign-Supported English system.

The Makaton charity also produces symbols which are used in a variety of ways (for example on paper and electronically) to enhance all forms of communication. Symbols and signs are closely linked where this is possible.

Makaton is mostly used in interpersonal communication contexts. There is some use of Makaton amongst adults, particularly if Makaton signing is in use.

The strong line art makes Makaton accessible in terms of visual perception.

Visit the Makaton website.

Diagrams showing the Makaton sign for family (finger spell F, circles clockwise in front of body) and Christmas tree


PCS is the most colourful symbol set. The colour adds complexity for perception, however.

The imagery is often quite childish. There is not much adult vocabulary.

PCS is mostly used for manual picture-exchange (printed on cards) or selectively to supplement Widgit.

5 PCS symbols showing the colours red, yellow, pink, green and blue

Widgit Literacy Symbols

Widgit is the most popular symbol set in the UK. Line art and limited palette options are also available, along with optimised sets for people with visual impairments.

A large library is updated regularly and toolsets from Widgit include a symbol web browser, amongst other applications.

Visit the Widgit website.

Change Picture Bank

Change Picture Bank is used more flexibly in terms of symbol meaning. It is firmly rooted in the adult world and in person-centred planning (PCP) initiatives.

It is often easier to understand for non-symbol users, especially where abstract concepts are being represented.

Visit the Change Picture Bank website.

Three images showing different scenarios such as having a conversation with someone and thinking together