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How to make your digital content more accessible
A lot of digital content is ableist, but there are many simple techniques to employ that will make your website and social media posts more
accessible to everyone.
These can benefit the blind, deaf, those with colour blindness, people who suffer seizures or individuals who can’t use a mouse or touchpad.
Many marketers may not have considered the simple steps they could be taking to ensure content across all platforms is as inclusive as possible. But by being consistent and utilising these techniques, the digital world can be a more accessible place.
While it takes some extra time to put these measures in place, they should eventually become second nature. None of them will have a detrimental impact on your SERPs ranking or discoverability to potential customers. In fact, many accessible content practices have a positive effect on your SEO.
Don’t skip over the alt text field in your CMS, as this is read aloud by the devices to those who are visually impaired. The alt text provides context and meaning from the image, just as a picture does to sighted people. Without it, there’s no way for them to know how it relates to the rest of the elements on the page.
Capping up different words in hashtags
If you’ve ever looked at a hashtag on social media and taken a moment to work out the different words within it, you’ll understand the difficulty this presents to screen readers. By simply capping up each individual word within a hashtag it becomes more legible for assistance technology.
Audio description provides a narrative of the visual elements in a video, mainly to provide context and clarify who’s speaking. The Government Communication Service recommends three ways audio description can be implemented: build into the video as you record; make a parallel video; or use a third-party agency or plug-in to create a toggle function between the videos.
Image descriptions on social posts
Adding a clear description of the visuals in a social media image or video in under 200 characters provides extra information to screen readers. It means you can reach a much wider audience with minimal effort and demonstrate that you’re inclusive with your content.
While subtitling videos for those with a hearing impairment seems like common sense, the benefits of adding them to your rich media are far more wide-reaching. In fact, a study by StageTEXT found that 80 per cent of subtitle users are not utilising them for hearing loss, but other purposes like not disturbing others while watching on a mobile device.
Providing a full transcript of a podcast or other audio content on the same webpage makes it much more accessible to the deaf. Reading is an intuitive alternative to those with limited hearing capabilities, so a transcript, while feeling like a low-tech solution, makes perfect sense.
Not all vision impairment is absolute and one common issue is colour blindness. Choices web designers make about colour contrast can make legibility very difficult for those with the condition. One way around this is an option to toggle between high and low contrast to ensure nobody’s excluded.
Functionality via the keyboard
Muscle weakness or the loss of limb control means some people don’t have the dexterity needed for precise use of a mouse or touchpad. Instead, they control the websites they visit using the keyboard, so ensure your pages have full functionality through these buttons. Try navigating your site as it stands with a keyboard alone to discover the limitations.
Avoid flashing content
Three to 30 Hertz (flashes per second) are common trigger rates for seizures, which means you should be careful about putting blinking content on your website. While there are lots of instances where this can be avoided, if it really is imperative, then a warning should be placed in a prominent position so anyone with epilepsy or other conditions that result in seizures can avoid the flashing content.
Set your website out in a logical fashion and provide clear navigation that takes the user to links and pages in a systematic way. Integrate semantic HTML into your site to explicitly signpost the purpose of elements. This helps people with cognitive impairment or attention disorders who can find websites with inconsistent layouts particularly confusing and difficult to use.
How accessibility best practice can benefit SEO
Adopting good accessibility practices will benefit all your users and improve your SEO. For example, alt text helps search engines crawl your web page and index your images correctly. Semantic HTML is good for SEO as well as those with accessibility issues, while lean semantic markup, which benefits screen readers, also improves load time and nobody wants to wait around for a page to appear.