I’m going to level with you. Accessibility isn’t always easy. Even after years of learning about accessibility, there are some things I’m still figuring out. But for anyone involved in content creation, it’s important to make sure that content is accessible for people with disabilities. Otherwise, we’re excluding a significant part of the population.
The good news is, there are some easy things you can do to make your content more accessible, even if you don’t fully understand all the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
When content is more accessible, it’s more inclusive. And shouldn’t we all strive for that?
1. Add Alt Text
One of the easiest things you can do to make your content more accessible is to write alternative text for each image. Alternative text is a description of an image that’s read by screen readers.
Whether you’re including the image in a course, an email, a presentation, or a social media post, providing alt text will help make sure people using assistive technology can view the image.
It’s also useful for people with poor internet connections or hypersensitive security measures. If the image doesn’t load or is blocked, the alt text will describe the image.
Search engines can also see alternative text, which can be helpful for search engine optimization (SEO). However, don’t load your images up with SEO keywords to try to game the system; that’s not what alt text is for.
Here are a couple of resources for learning more about writing alt text:
2. Use Color Appropriately
Another easy way to make your content more accessible is to use color appropriately.
Make sure there’s sufficient color contrast so users with color blindness or color vision deficiency can see it. There are lots of free color contrast tools available to help with this. I’ve included a few of my favorites below.
Never use color as the sole means for conveying information. For example, if you’re displaying a pie chart, rather than simply color-coding the wedges, use color and pattern fills (e.g., dots or stripes). Or label each section.
While you’re choosing colors, be aware that certain color combinations can be problematic for some users with other vision disorders. This is why the Disability Pride flag was recently updated.
This article explains why we shouldn’t use pure black for text or backgrounds.
Here are some resources to help with using color appropriately:
3. Provide Closed Captions
Closed captions are another easy way to make your content more accessible. With the plethora of tools available now for generating automatic captions, it doesn’t take much time to review those auto-captions (which Meryl Evans refers to as “auto-craptions”) and tweak them to be sure they’re accurate.
If you create content in Storyline or Camtasia, those programs make it super easy to add captions. I like to use the text-to-speech audio in Storyline for drafts. By checking “Generate closed captions,” it makes it easy to adjust the timings in those captions when I add the real voiceover later.
Here are some captioning tools that Alan Natachu shared in his AIDC22 presentation called Demystifying Captions:
4. Provide Transcripts
The WCAG 2.1 guidelines require captions only for audio that’s synchronized with imagery. For audio-only content, they require a transcript. However, I strongly recommend providing transcripts whenever audio is used, even if you also provide captions.
Not only can transcripts be beneficial for people using screen readers, they’re the only way to make audio content accessible for individuals who are both deaf and blind. (They can be converted into Braille.) In addition, transcripts are valuable for some neurodivergent individuals and people with cognitive disabilities. For example, I have memory issues from a head injury, and transcripts give me something to refer back to easily.
Here are some resources for learning more about transcripts:
5. Use Camel Case
Finally, another easy way to make your content more accessible—particularly when posting on social media—is to use Camel Case in your hashtags and URLs. In other words, capitalize the first letter of each word.
When you type a hashtag in all lowercase letters, screen readers will not recognize the individual words and will often read it letter-by-letter. In addition, Camel Case makes the hashtags easier to read for everyone, particularly people with dyslexia.
Camel Case Examples
Here are some resources for learning more about making social media content accessible:
To recap, here are five easy ways to make your content more accessible:
- Add alt text.
- Ensure sufficient color contrast.
- Provide closed captions.
- Provide transcripts.
- Use CamelCase.
What other tips would you add? Let me know in the comments!
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other posts about accessibility:
A Note About Redundant Alt Text
Normally, I wouldn’t include alt text for an image if the information is already included in the text. In the context of this blog post, the image above is purely decorative.
However, I chose to include alt text for it, in case the image is shared somewhere else, without the accompanying text. I’d love your thoughts on whether I should have made a different choice.