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How to make your online content more accessible

Published Jul 07, 2023 – By Wardour

Creative collage of hand with a key and laptop.

July is Disability Pride Month, and to support and raise awareness, we’re looking at what you can do to be more inclusive online. While it’s been more than three decades since Disability Pride was first recognised, Scope reports that individuals with disabilities are still over 50% more likely to face barriers in accessing digital and online services than people without disabilities. Analysis by WebAIM has found that of the web’s top 1 million most-visited homepages, 96.3% have accessibility errors – at an average of 50 errors per page!

In today’s increasingly online world, it’s more important than ever to ensure that web content is accessible for all audiences. And while transforming the Internet to accommodate everyone is a significant undertaking that will take time, there are some simple ways to sow the seeds of change in your content.

Colour contrast

At one point or another, we’ve all had to endure squinting at a poorly designed presentation. It might have been the use of a light-yellow font on a white background, or perhaps bright colours used for both font and background, intended to make reading easier for the audience. Either way, insufficient contrast can make it difficult for those living with vision impairments, colour blindness or other visual challenges to read and comprehend content.

To tackle this, contrast ratios should be used to ensure the legibility of text. Under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, there are three compliance levels – A, AA and AAA – each of which include standards that must be met to make a website accessible for all users. Typically, for small to medium-sized text, the minimum contrast standards are either a 4.5:1 (AA standards) or 7:1 (AAA standards) ratio. These guidelines ensure that text is visually distinguishable from its background and can be easily read.

To check the contrast ratio of text and ensure that it’s legible across different devices, lighting conditions and user preferences, there are various online applications that both content creators and agencies can use.

Alt text

Alt text, short for ‘alternative text,’ describes the appearance or function of an image on a webpage, enabling those who use screen readers or braille output devices to understand the purpose or content of an image.

Alt text should be used on websites and social channels, and should be specific, descriptive and concise. It should convey any information that is presented visually, including the subject, any text within the image, and any relevant context.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but alt text can also boost SEO scores. More than a third of Google search engine results pages now include images, so effectively utilising your site’s images to drive traffic is essential. Alt text plays a vital role in this by helping Google understand the full scope of content on the webpage, influencing its search engine ranking and visibility.

Video transcripts

By providing a video transcript, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing will be able to access your content (as well as those who may have low Internet bandwidth or are in a sound-sensitive environment). Transcripts also offer the advantage of being easily translatable into other languages, facilitating broader accessibility.

Like alt text, video transcripts can also improve SEO scores by providing text that search engines can analyse and index. They also provide a convenient means of extracting essential information from a written document, eliminating the need for repeated video viewings.

Subtitles and sign language

Subtitles are easily added to videos. In fact, there’s no reason a video shouldn’t have them. Remember to make sure the text is easy to read – inserting a colour background behind the subtitle text often makes this easier.

You don’t need to mirror what’s being said word for word. If someone ends up restarting their sentence, the subtitles don’t need to reflect this – they’re all about making your content easier to engage with. They’re also useful in environments where someone might not want sound on – scrolling through LinkedIn on their commute, for example.

Another option is to include a sign language interpreter in videos. This brings a level of human expression that subtitles lack. Despite what lots of people think, this option doesn’t have to cost very much. Remember to make sure the interpreter’s clothing contrasts with the background, and they appear big enough that all their signs are clear to the viewer.

Simple language

While it might be tempting to show off your range of vocabulary when writing content, the most effective writing is simple and easy for everyone to understand, so think twice about using meandering sentences and long words. It’s also useful to put information in a logical order, prioritising the most essential details.

Next steps to making your content more accessible

The above is just a glimpse of some of the ways you can improve the accessibility of your content. There are a lot of places to start, all of which take a bit of work. But as an organisation, if you’re promoting your inclusivity you need to practice what you preach. By adopting even just a couple of these suggestions, you’re taking tangible steps towards creating content that’s more inclusive and, in being so, reaching even more people.

If you’d like support in making your content more accessible, please email clients@wardour.co.uk.

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