11 ways to make content more accessible and inclusive
What is one way that you can improve digital content so it can be understood by all audiences?
We asked accessibility leaders and Chief Marketing Officers this question for their best ideas. From integrating validated accessibility features to paying attention to the overall design, there are several ways to make your digital content more inclusive and appealing to all users. Here are 11 ways for improving digital content to reach all audiences.
- Integrate Validated Accessibility Features
To improve the accessibility of your digital content, integrate accessibility features that have been tested and shown to be safe at the beginning of development. The upcoming version of the WCAG guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 3.0) is revised to include innovative technologies, such as mobile devices, wearables, interactive content, and virtual and augmented reality. As increased devices, technologies, and future content are all covered by the guidelines, they provide an outline for potential digital features as well as how current technologies can be created more inclusively and with usability in mind. The WCAG criteria govern a range of content possibilities, so by following them you are likely to already have accessibility in mind while generating creative content to ensure diversity of thought.
Keyonda Smith, Director of Accessibility at KM Smith, PhD Consulting
- Create Clear Content
Accessibility is a user experience issue and creating the best experience for people consuming your content should be a high priority. So how should you think about content and accessibility? It can be summed up in one word: Clarity. One way to ensure clarity is to follow a logical hierarchy when presenting content rather than giving little thought to content organization and readability. Realizing people consume content differently, another way to provide clarity is to allow for multiple ways to access content (i.e. audio, subtitles, etc). Creating clarity in your content requires thoughtfulness and purpose, but the result is content that is a great experience for your entire audience.
John Baron, Associate Vice President, Accessibility iSoftStone
- Use Different Content Formats
Make sure to use different content formats to cater to different audience preferences. If you create a blog post about a particular topic, for example, you can repurpose the same content as the basis for a new video, podcast, or infographic. This lets your content adapt to consumers’ various preferences and learning styles, making your message more accessible to a broader audience. Repurposing content also lets you develop your expertise on the various types and platforms available, allowing you to finetune your message and get the most out of your effort.
Milo Cruz, Chief Marketing Officer at Freelance Writing Jobs
- Represent Broadly With Inclusive Language and Accessibility
Alongside the over 1 billion, or 15% of the global population who have some kind of disability or impairment, are countless more who are either temporally or situationally impaired. To ensure we reach all audiences we need to think in terms of sight, sound, gender and race. For each we need to make available as many ways of consuming content as are required and need much more effort than simply recording a video.
Ensuring assistive technologies like screen readers work or audio description are present is essential; they or them covers everyone and having diverse representation appeals to all audiences. Accessibility is tightly related to inclusion so the choice of how to interact, as well as inclusive language and representation will ensure you reach the widest audience.
Ady Stokes, Accessibility Specialist and Test Engineer at Glean
- Let Your Design Answer Critical User-Experience Questions
One of the most effective ways to Improve digital content for all audiences is to ask critical questions about the expected experience to be had by users. Ask a designer to navigate their design with their eyes closed. Ask a video producer to watch a video without the sound. Test using the software in the manner that users with specific needs around accessibility will operate. Doing so changes the process of creating accessible content from a standards-driven exercise to an experiential process more closely related to both user needs. In this way, both the business goals and the diversity of user needs can be addressed in a manner that supports inclusivity and welcomes as many users as possible to enjoy the offered goods and services.
Keith Newton, Executive Leader and Strategic Ally in Digital Accessibility Experience at Mantiaba Interactive
- Start From a Place of Equity
We all start with some bias. Our bias influences the channels, tools and mediums we choose for our content, our words, how long our sentences are, the colors and imagery we style with, and who we think we are trying to reach. Start by questioning yourself and reflect on the assumptions you are making about your audience. Have you thought of who your ideal audience might be? Who is not included in that group? Why? Did you intentionally not include a group? Why? Think about who you did not initially include, and reflect on what they might need from you to consume your content. If you produce digital content, you have the power to be an agent of change. How you think, unlearn, question and re-question yourself will determine how you ensure everyone has equal access to what you put out there.
Angie Rajani, Digital Accessibility Consultant at Inclusion Rated E
- Provide Alt Text is for Digital Images
Providing alt text (alternative text) for digital images is an essential way to expand your reach. Writing quality alt text is a unique skill, and one we can all benefit from learning and applying. If you’re describing an image of a man and a cat, rather than writing “man and cat” as your alt text, incorporate more detail or, as parents often say, use your words. For example, “A light-skinned man with brown eyes and close-cropped dark brown hair, visible from the shoulders up, holds a black cat near his face. The cat gazes at the man intently. The background is a plain white wall.”
Mindi Ferguson, UX Designer & Accessibility Consultant
- Feature Transcripts for Audio and Video Content
A transcript is a powerful tool for making video and audio-based digital media accessible and understandable for a wide range of users. A transcript is a text version of visual and/or auditory content. A basic transcript includes only auditory information, such as dialogue and background noise, making it a suitable alternative to audio-only content for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. A descriptive transcript uses text to convey all details that would be perceived by watching and listening to a video, making it accessible for users who are D/deafblind, blind, and low vision, including those who use screen reader software.
Transcripts convert time-based media into text that can be accessed, understood, and shared by users with a wide range of needs and preferences. When added to a personal or company website, transcripts also improve Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.) by making audio and video-based media more likely to show up in relevant search engine results.
Natalie Shearer, Accessibility Consultant at Two Canes Consulting
- Design Content With Plain Language
Designers need to start thinking about users with Neurological Differences and Disabilities. The most common reaction to inaccessible digital content for Neurodivergent users is never revisiting the page again. Using jargon and metaphors that require background understanding of the context is not very accessible and user-friendly for all users including those with cognitive and learning disabilities. Therefore, we all must use plain language to design the best experience for users.
Here are some of the basic steps to using plain language:
- Think about how your audience will read not just what you want to write
- Organize the information in a logical order and structure
- Have a topic sentence
- Be concise and descriptive while being clear on your point
- Put subject, verb, and object close to each other.
Although Neurodiversity has not been traditionally accommodated in digital accessibility, we all must be aware that WCAG compliance is only the beginning and not the end goal.
Albert Kim, Accessibility Lead at Korn Ferry
- Create Infographics
Infographics are visual representations of instructive and straightforward data to comprehend. They're also helpful for most Internet users who prefer to post visual content on social media because they're in the form of photographs. You don't even need graphic design abilities to create a professional-looking infographic using some infographic tools. The most important thing is to use your company knowledge and data to develop something that will be useful to your audience.
Muskan Rai, Writer at Web Hosting Advices
- Pay Attention To The Overall Design
The design of your website or blog can have a big impact on how easily accessible your content is. Make sure that your site is easy to navigate and use. Pay attention to the font size and color scheme you use - dark text on a light background is generally easier to read than light text on a dark background. Use hyperlinks judiciously, and make sure that they are clearly labeled, so readers know what happens if they click on them. Creating an effective design for your site will take some trial and error, but it’s important to put in the effort so that your readers can easily find and consume your content.
Peter Lucas, Owner of Relocate to Andorra
Discover more with Texthelp's Digital Accessibility Guide
In this guide, Texthelp share practical advice to creating accessible digital content and inclusive online experiences.
Explore chapters including: