Creating an Accessible Content Experience for All

December 17, 2018 Jennifer Doyle

Graphic of beach with accessibility signs

Did you know that 15 percent of the world’s population live with a disability? These disabilities include physical, hearing, vision, speech, and cognitive. They can severely impact the way people interact with digital, web-based content. In the same way that you ensure your building or physical space is accessible to those with a disability, you must also ensure your organization is accessible on a digital level.

Why Care About Digital Accessibility?

Giving visitors a positive online experience is what most of us strive for. However, a positive experience is more than writing compelling content or designing a pretty page. Put simply, it’s good business to create a digital presence that’s accessible to all.

Approximately 71 percent of disabled customers with access needs click away from a website that is difficult to use. Those customers who click away have an estimated spending power of £11.75 billion in the UK alone, around 10% of the total UK online spend in 2016. It also showed that 81 percent of disabled consumers reported they would pay more money on a competitor’s website if it was accessible.

So what is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is the creation of an inclusive online environment where all users can navigate the internet and perform tasks easily.

Creating accessible content not only improves the experience users have on your website, it boosts your SEO.

Incorporating digitally accessible web practices also reduces your risk of legislative penalties and civil action. Legislators around the globe are adopting digital accessibility guidelines such as those outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Here are useful tips to help you get started with digital accessibility:

Web Content and Blogs

Often, a user’s first and most frequent engagement with your organization takes place at your digital front door—the website. Make it a positive and accessible first impression!

Font

Use a font that is designed specifically for on-screen viewing. In other words, avoid fancy, custom fonts. Stick to sans-serif fonts such as Verdana, Arial, or Helvetica. Also, limit the number of fonts and font variations like bold, italics, and all caps.

Tables 

Avoid using a table for layout purposes. Only use it when data needs to be presented in a table in its context. Make sure there is a header row and it is properly labelled. It’s also imperative to write a caption that provides a summary of the table’s content.

Justification

Left justification is the most accessible form of content layout since the beginning of the line is in a consistent location. Staggering at the end of lines gives the eyes a chance to rest. Centered text can cause content to get positioned off screen when zooming in, and full justification creates inconsistent gaps between words.

Images 

Always use the alt attribute (alt="") for images. You do not need to add alt text to every image (meaning you can exclude those that are decorative only), but you must always add an alt attribute. Images, unless they are decorative, need alt text that clearly describes what the image contains. Screen readers work by reading out text. When an image is decorative and the alt attribute is left empty, it will just skip over reading anything for that image. If, however, you neglect to add an empty alt attribute for the decorative image, the screen reader reads the entire image URL aloud creating distractive noise clutter.

Videos 

Add captions and transcripts to all video content. Transcripts are textual scripts that contain all information about the video. This includes dialogue and a description of the actions, sounds, and scenes that contextualize the story. Keep in mind that automated captions are often only 60–70 percent accurate. When you create accessible videos with captions, they can be indexed by search engines, improving your SEO relevance.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is still one of the most successful ways to directly reach customers or prospects, so it’s important to create emails that are easily accessible to all.

Headings 

Use proper email HTML headings to identify and separate sections of content: H1, H2, and H3, etc. Headings relay the importance or value weight of the content.

Color Contrast 

Ensure your email has proper color contrast as people with low vision may find it difficult to read. You can use a color contrast checker to see if your colors meet the recommended contrast guidelines outlined in WCAG.

Text Inside Images 

Avoid putting text inside images when possible. Use alt text to describe the image being viewed. This rule applies even if your image already has text inside of it or embedded into it.

Optimize for Mobile 

Simplify your email parameters as much as possible so the content optimizes for mobile. These parameters include writing short subject lines, choosing single column templates, and including links or buttons that are easy to access. Make your calls-to-action prominent. Emails should not only be readable, but they must load quickly on mobile devices.

Social Media

If you’re like most organizations, the first place you go to share new content is social media. These platforms have a reach that connects users in an exponential way. Therefore, social posts must be equally accessible to all audiences, the same as your website. If not, you miss out on successfully sharing important news with your followers or driving valuable traffic to your website.

Instagram 

Instagram has automatic alternative text that uses object recognition technology to create audio captions that work with screen readers. Alternatively, you can manually add alternative text to better explain your photos. To do this, click “Advanced Settings” when posting a new photo.

Facebook 

Add captions to your videos. To do this, click “Edit” after posting and add your .SRT file. When your post includes an image, describe it with alt text or a description of what the image is.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has alternate text available for your posts. Make sure you fill in this information to help describe what’s going on in your post’s image.

Twitter 

Set the accessibility function of your account by going into the settings, clicking “Accessibility,” and then checking the box labelled “compose image descriptions”. Then, when tweeting, open your image thumbnail and add descriptive text in the “image description” field.

Hashtags

Use “camel case” to make your hashtags accessible. Camel case means capitalizing the first letter of each word so screen readers convey the words individually rather than as one long jumbled sound. For example, write #ABetterWebForAll instead of #abetterwebforall.

If you’re wondering how accessible your web content and digital presence are, a great way to find out is using this free accessibility checker for Google Chrome.

Looking for more insights that will help you improve your content experience? Download The Content Experience Report now. 

About the Author

Jennifer Doyle

Jennifer is the Senior Marketer for Siteimprove Canada, where she helps organizations overcome their web challenges; including accessibility, SEO, analytics, quality assurance, and data privacy. In her spare time she enjoys cooking and travelling the world!

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