Digital Accessibility

An essential step in the journey towards achieving inclusion is to ensure that your content can reach and be accessible to everyone.  Enabling digital accessibility is a key factor in engaging with your audience and should be the starting point whenever developing new content for your colleagues or customers.

Currently, 14.1 million disabled people are living in the UK and less than 1% of website homepages are likely to meet basic web accessibility standards.

Within this article, we have put together a few easy steps to get you started on implementing accessibility effectively within your online content;

Language

Using straightforward language and terminology within written and spoken content will ensure that everyone can engage with, and follow the information easily. By using language that is easy to read and follow you allow your audience to understand your content the first time they read or hear it without the need to revisit it, which can dilute the message you are trying to send.

To ensure your writing is clear and comprehensible, follow techniques such as using common everyday words and writing acronyms in full. Avoid overly technical terms if you can, but if they are essential for the subject matter you are conveying to your audience then they should be explained.

It is also important to be mindful of the language and tone that we use in online content, for example, using gender-neutral language can ensure that you are writing for all. You should avoid using any terms that reinforce a stigma, and phrases such as “suffers from” when referring to a disabled person.

Fonts and Layout

Your content must now meet web accessibility standards, which is a regulatory requirement and a copy of these standards can be found here.

Thinking about the type of font that you use can make a difference in improving readability.  Simple steps such as using sans serif fonts, for example: Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic, and Helvetica are clear and easy to read.  Also ensure that the size of the font is large enough to be read easily and consider the shapes of the letters, for example, the ascenders and descenders of the font design (the way the stem on letters like b and p are featured), all of which can make a big difference.

Check that there are accessible display screen options for readers to choose how they prefer to view your digital content.  The background and text colours you use should have a good contrast ratio (minimum of 3:1) with the text being darker on top of a light background; however, using black text on a white background can mean that those with dyslexia may find the content difficult to read.  Providing display screen options to change the colour of the; background, font or a screen tint overlay, will enable the reader to select their preferred format.

For someone who is visually impaired, thinking about the way you present and the layout you choose for your content can make it easier for them to access it. The structure of the content should be easy to follow; applying headers and bullet points, and dividing the information into sections throughout will improve usability and the content will flow much better.  This will also allow for digital magnifiers, screen readers, and specialist reading software to follow the text.

Video and Images

Another essential aspect to think about in regards to how you create your online content is imagery. Those who are partially sighted or blind will not be able to view the image and if the visuals are important to support your piece, the individual won’t be receiving all of the information.

Providing ALT text (alternative text inserted as a word or phrase) on your images with detailed, clear, and concise descriptions will allow screen readers to describe what your image is portraying. This ALT text instructs a range of assistive technologies to read or display this as an alternative to displaying the image. 

Avoid using redundant information in your ALT text, for example, “an image of” as the screen reader will convey that it is describing an image. In general, it is best to avoid images of text as they do not scale well. If you are using this type of content, consider font legibility, and colour contrast to make the image text as clear as possible.

With regards to video and audio, you should include captions and a transcript to allow those who have a hearing impairment to be able to access your content. YouTube, as an example, produces transcripts automatically.  However, when transcripts are not featured on a platform; you can provide a transcript in a separate document with a link and ensure you describe dialogue and necessary sounds accordingly.

Documents

Any documents that you may have on your website or that you send as an attachment should be accessible. You should follow the same accessibility rules for your documents as you do for your online content, such as being mindful of fonts, structure and layout and including headings, using plain English and ALT text.

Documents should be made available in a range of alternative formats for individuals to choose from. When creating documents with Microsoft Word you can use their accessibility checker, where you will be able to see recommendations on how to fix accessibility issues as you are creating or modifying these documents.

Any PDF documents should be able to be read by a screen-reader and other Assistive Technologies. For this, you can use a PDF authoring tool that can provide accessibility support. A significant part of making a PDF document accessible is to define the content flow – which lets any third party software accessing the PDF know in which order to speak or display its contents.

Social Media

Social media plays a massive part in any marketing strategy, and most social media platforms have many accessibility and capability functions. This will make it easier for you to add descriptions and ALT text to any of the posts you are producing.

Ensure you’re using the available accessibility features – there may even be some hidden that you didn’t realise were offered by these platforms.

Captions are a great way to provide accessibility, and are helpful to everyone, making it easier to follow certain media and provide a better understanding of its content. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all have caption options that can be added to your video content.

Hashtags can be a great way to ensure your posts are being seen by a wider audience, however, they should be used considerately as they will be read aloud by some assistive technologies and don’t always bring informative value to the reader. You should use your hashtags at the end of your post so the reader can get to the information first. Similarly, emojis should be used sparingly in posts as if they are being read by assistive technologies the visual meaning and literal translation may be different from the message you are trying to convey.

Conclusion

Here at iDiversity we aim to help inclusively support people and organisations. We believe accessibility is a very important part of making the web a place for everyone to utilise, and we encourage businesses, individuals, organisations, and creators to think about the way they are creating their content.

Overall taking a mindful approach when you are creating any content or marketing, can help open up these resources to the widest possible audience.  

 To summarise; the main points when creating accessible web content are:

– Provide ALT text for your images on social media and blog posts to allow for screen readers and other Assistive Technologies.

– When writing text, use sans serif fonts in a bigger size.

– Use plain language and simple terminology in your writing.

– Consider contrast – Use colours and backgrounds that make the text easily visible.

– Organise the layout of your content with bullet points and headers.

– For any video or images provide a text alternative.

– Provide a transcript in a separate document with a link to your videos.

– Include captions on all video content.

– Make your documents available in alternative formats.

– Use hashtags and emojis sparingly and at the end of your posts.

– Use a PDF authoring tool to provide accessibility support with your PDF documents.

If you have any suggestions on how content can be made more accessible, please let us know by leaving a comment below this article or tweet us @iDiversityNews

Sources

Wired.com – Less than 1% of websites are accessible| https://www.wired.com/story/web-accessibility-blind-users-dominos

Scope Disability Facts | https://www.scope.org.uk/media/disability-facts-figures/



Author: Jay Cochran
In my role as the Chief Operating Officer for iDiversity, I oversee all of the company’s operational procedures, development and deployment of our services, and administer our Marketing and and web-based services.Returning to Cambridge after graduating with Plymouth University with a degree in Web Technologies, I joined iansyst and iDiversity and further developed my passion for equality and diversity, particularly within the workplace. My university years gave me a first hand experience of the needs of disabled students, both within education and transitioning into employment and further fuelled my desire to make accessibility a national issue for which i strive to raise awareness of within my role.