(This content originally appeared as a Guest Blog Post for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) fir the amazing In The Detail VA Agency – check out their site and say hi)
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Accessible Content and You!
Accessible content can be a bit of a minefield; it covers everything from accessibility itself, usability, user experience (UX), customer journey, inclusive design and more.
Ultimately though, accessible and inclusive content is about making sure your content is as easy as possible for anyone and everyone to understand and follow. For this blog, the focus is on online written content – whether that’s for social media, your blog or your website copy.
I’ll be sharing four simple steps to set you on your journey to accessible content for your online presence.
But before we dive in…
Why is accessible content relevant?
In a nutshell, making sure everyone can access the online written content you write for your business or organisation all help with a customer’s experience of your company. Writing truly accessible content on your website and social media allows your customers to get the information they need from you as quickly and efficiently as possible. It will improve their user experience and may encourage them to stick around, read more of your content, join your mailing list, follow your calls to action (CTAs) or sign up to your new membership.
And who wouldn’t want that?
Isn’t accessible content only for disabled people?
No. This is an absolute myth.
Accessibility is about being inclusive to everyone and making everyone’s user experience as simple and straightforward as possible. But just to hammer the point home even further, ‘disabled people’ can’t directly be catered for en masse. There are three (simplified) categories of disability to begin with:
- Permanently disabled – people like me. We are permanently affected by conditions which could be physical, sensory, chronic conditions or illnesses that just won’t go away.
- Temporarily disabled – people who are likely to get better, improve over time or heal from an injury or impairment such as broken limbs, surgery, migraines or even side effects of medication or hunger.
- Situationally disabled – without exaggerating, this group includes just about everyone you’ve ever met. And this consists of all of your customers. Someone who’s had a sleepless night, stressful day at work, is undergoing some medical treatment, has had a bad day with the kids… the list goes on. Every one of us is, at some point, situationally disabled. Watching your video, trying to read your blog or attempting to navigate your website might cause them trouble if they’re in a loud environment or simply can’t find their reading glasses.
Isn’t creating accessible content time consuming and expensive?
It doesn’t have to be.
But this is one of the most common excuses people give when challenged on their lack of content accessibility. My experience shows that it’s more about fear of the unknown, not wanting to get it wrong and not knowing where to start.
How do I get started with accessible written content?
The good news is that your accessibility journey can start right now, and it doesn’t need to cost anything other than a little time and effort.
True accessibility isn’t about a one size fits all solution. Every situation is unique, and there’s no right answer.
Making your written online content accessible
Here are four simple steps you can take now to start your journey to online content accessibility:
Think About Structure –
Not everybody will read your content the way you want them to – top to bottom left to right, section by section, picture by picture. They could be using assistive technology like screen magnifiers to make the screen and your content up to 500% larger – this will immediately break the structure and intended path you want people to take.
A web visitor might be accessing your site, blog or sales page entirely on a braille reader, or your latest visitor could simply have had a late night with a newborn or may not speak English as a first language.
A robust and consistent structure will help everyone.
My two main tips about structure are:
- Every page, blog and post should have its own unique title – this isn’t just an SEO requirement, it’s a massive help to accessibility and inclusion too. Titles tell people that they’re in the right place. Keep your titles simple and straightforward, and don’t cram them with keywords and SEO jargon. Tell it how it is.
- Use Headers and Dividers to break up your content into bite-size chunks – break your content up using headers and dividers, and it makes it so much easier to read than merely confronting visitors with a big wall of words. White space, dividers and headers break the content down in to easily navigable, digestible terms. Wading through solid paragraphs of words for the answer to your question is never a pleasure. Help people find what they’ve come looking for.
Use Links and CTAs Properly
– Every decent website uses calls to action (CTAs). Every business owner wants to have internal links and outbound links to make connections to other people their field or to bring together articles and sources.
They can’t be avoided, but they can be used properly. Not only will they help with your SEO and credibility, but they can also help visitors navigate your content correctly. HOWEVER. Make sure you use them properly. Links like these:
Find Out More
are inaccessible and don’t tell anyone what to expect or even why they should click.
To help improve your links, think about:
- The why / purpose of the link
- Does it make sense without having to read all the surrounding text?
- What does the customer get in return from the link?
○ Further, into your sales funnel?
○ More relevant content?
○ Access to your Membership page?
Links don’t have just to be one or two words! Using the examples and following the questions – you get this:
CLICK HERE = Book A Free Zoom Call
Yes! = Download Our Free Pricing Guide
Find Out More = Read Our Blog on Father’s Day Gifts.
Everyone knows why they should click these links. It doesn’t matter how they are accessing your content or whether they’re are disabled; they don’t need to read the whole article to understand what the next action is.
Use Plain Language
– Stay simple, easy and consistent. Maintain your style and tone of voice throughout your website, blogs and social media content. Don’t try to bamboozle people with jargon – explain your products and services in simple, easy-to-understand words.
Try to avoid jargon and acronyms if at all possible, but where necessary, write the abbreviation out in full the first time before switching to the lettered version in all other mentions.
If you absolutely cannot avoid complex language, a glossary is an excellent accessibility tool that is often overlooked. This can make the content easier for everyone – even other professionals to follow without impacting your credibility.
For much longer-form content – in-depth articles or a long how-to blog – a simple table of contents can go a long way. People can accessibly work through the material at their own pace and know at a glance if it’s something they can do themselves – or if they might need to reach out to you directly.
Captions and Transcripts
– yes, it sounds scary, time-intensive and expensive but it doesn’t have to be. By simply adding a free transcript to every video and a caption to every photograph, you’re helping your audience access your content quickly and inclusively.
YouTube will do the grunt work for you and generate an automatic transcript. While not perfect, it’s a great place to start and is always better than nothing. It costs nothing, is quick and easy to do but makes accessing your content so much easier for people like me.
But again, it’s not just about people with disabilities. 70-90% of people use social media without sound. Captioning and subtitling your content will help more and more people access your words and videos every single day.
If you’d like to look further into the possibility of more accurate subtitles, here are some suggestions for you:
Any of those options will give you a fantastic starting point for a full transcript – on your blog – boosting SEO while also getting people onto your site!
Accessibility in conclusion
Being more accessible and inclusive with your content and accessibility, in general, is an ongoing journey and not a destination or tick box exercise.
There’s no magic wand, no instant fix but the more tools you have in your accessibility toolkit and the sooner you start your journey, the more people will be able to find, understand, digest and use your content!