5 Simple Ways to Make Content More Accessible
What does “accessible content” mean, and why is it important to public sector communications?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a set of principles intended for content and web creators to ensure that all people – including those with disabilities – can view, interact and share information.
In the public sector, making content accessible can seem like a huge undertaking. From changing processes to using targeted software, accessibility can seem overly complicated.
But accessibility does not have to be a cumbersome process. Here are five simple things you can start doing now to make content more accessible for your readers with disabilities:
STEP 1: Make a Checklist
In making accessibility a priority in content development, it might be helpful to use a checklist of best practices and refer to it whenever new content is created or added to your website (including the tips below). This is also helpful when new team members join your organization to introduce them to accessibility early.
If you need a place to start, here is GovDelivery’s 508 Checklist for Accessibility.
STEP 2: Adapt Your Writing Style
For some people with disabilities, making their way through a large document or long email can be an arduous process. As much as possible, keep messages short and to-the-point with text that uses commonly-used words. This applies to documents, but also to emails. Use the motto “the simpler, the better” in all content pieces.
For Outlook or Microsoft Word, there are helpful tools to measure words on a readability scale. Detailed instructions can be found on Microsoft’s Step-by-Step Guide to Testing Readability.
STEP 3: Provide Meaningful Alt Text
For people with visual limitations, screen readers are not able to interpret images and are not able to communicate what an image is trying to convey.
When using digital communications platforms, images should include some level of alternative text (or descriptions of the image) in the coding of the image.
To create alternative text (or “alt text”) in an email or document, double click an image or click “image options.” This will prompt a box to enter Alternative Text. Describe an image in one sentence or less.
In its reach of over 100 million people, GovDelivery’s Communications Cloud actually requires the use of alt text on all images uploaded into the Advanced Bulletin editor.
STEP 4: Use More Descriptive Links
A common email practice when working to increase a digital audience is to drive readers to a website or piece of content.
When referring readers via a hyperlink, content creators will use generic or uninformative text like “Click Here.” For people with disabilities, this means their screen readers cannot interpret where the link would take them. Instead, try using more descriptive language like “Click here to purchase your fishing license.”
STEP 5: Check for Color Contrast
When choosing color combinations for your content piece, the background and foreground colors can be a disadvantage for people with visual limitations. What you might find is that a thoughtful color combination will help more than only people with disabilities – it is a usability issue that could help all readers of your content piece.
The minimum recommended contrast ratio is 4.5:1 between background and foreground colors. A helpful resource to check your proposed color schemes is WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checking Tool.
These simple steps may not seem like large adjustments, but they will make a enormous impact to readers with disabilities.
Is your organization working to make content more accessible? Let us know your best tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.