Creating online content that is accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities, is essential for ensuring that content can be consumed by the widest possible audience. The following are the top online accessibility guidelines for content creation:
- To make digital content more accessible, it’s essential to follow web accessibility guidelines and standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide specific recommendations for text spacing, alignment, and other aspects of web design to ensure that content is inclusive and usable by a broad range of individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
- Alt Text and Image Descriptions provide descriptive alternative text (alt text) for all images. Alt text is a short, concise text description of an image added to an image tag in the HTML code of a webpage or through a platform’s designated alt text field. Image descriptions are generally included in the body of a post or website and are longer and more detailed. Both convey the purpose and content of the image to those who cannot see it. These are some great guidelines for how to write alt text.
- Hashtags: Frequently, hashtags consist of multiple words and are formulated without spaces. Typically, individuals prefer to maintain all the letters in each word in lowercase, as seen in examples like #digitalaccessibilitynow. While some can easily discern patterns in words and interpret the phrase, others may encounter difficulties for various reasons. To enhance the accessibility of your hashtags, capitalizing the initial letter of each word, a practice often referred to as “camel case” or “camel backing” as in #DigitalAccessibilityNow.
- Plain Language is a style of communication that aims to make written or spoken information as clear and understandable as possible for the intended audience. It involves using straightforward and simple language, sentence structure, and formatting to ensure that the message is easily comprehensible by a wide range of people, including those with limited literacy skills or those who may not be familiar with technical or specialized terminology. (see writing guidelines for more info)
- Audio descriptions, also known as descriptive audio or video description, are narrated verbal descriptions of key visual elements in movies, TV shows, live performances, and other forms of multimedia content. These descriptions are primarily designed to make visual media more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, ensuring they can fully enjoy and understand the content.
- Video and Multimedia: Provide captions and transcripts for videos and ensure that multimedia content can be controlled using keyboard commands. Consider providing audio descriptions for visual content. Captioning refers to the process of adding text-based descriptions to audio and visual content, such as videos, television programs, movies, or live events. These captions can be either open (visible by default) or closed (viewers can enable or disable them), and they are typically used to convey spoken dialogue, sound effects, music, and other relevant information to the audience.
- Font/Text Content: Make sure that text content is readable and can be resized without loss of content or functionality. Avoid using small fonts or fixed text sizes. The easiest-to-read fonts are those characterized by simplicity, specifically sans-serif typefaces. Sans-serif fonts generally offer better readability compared to serif fonts due to their block-like appearance and minimal decorative elements. Among the readily accessible font options, Arial stands out as one of the most widely used. Other recommended sans-serif fonts include Calibri, Helvetica, Poppins, Roboto, Tahoma, and Verdana.
- Color Contrast: Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and background colors to make content readable for people with low vision or color blindness.
- Transcripts: all videos and podcasts should have transcripts provided after recording is complete.
- Person first and identity first language: Historically, person–first language was used when addressing disability. It is based on the premise that personhood is paramount and must be emphasized. Examples: people with disabilities, person with cerebral palsy, woman with an intellectual disability, child with autism, man with traumatic brain injury. Recently, a growing number of people prefer “identity first” language. It is particularly popular in certain communities. Examples include Autistic man, Deaf woman, disabled person. Some believe that “people first” language is unwieldy and unnecessarily downplays disability. To them, it is a matter of disability pride to “say the word.” Moreover, they find this terminology to be in keeping with the social model of disability, i.e., a person becomes “disabled” by inaccessible environments and discriminatory attitudes.
Identity references within the mental health community are particularly dynamic, with regional and personal preference variations. Some terms include: person with a mental health (or psychiatric) disability, diagnosis, condition or label; mental health client or consumer; survivor, ex-patient, or person with lived experience. Although often used, “mental illness” is increasingly falling into disfavor among people who have mental health disabilities. It is best to ask the person their preferred reference, and not worry about making a mistake.
- Links: When adding links to a document, online newsletter, PowerPoint, or website, embed the link whenever possible. To embed a link, highlight text and connect the link to that text. When you click on the text, it will take you to that link. For social media, use a link shortener (bit.ly or tiny.url (free)). Screen readers will be able to read the short link quickly, rather than listing out a long string of numbers and letters that can be confusing. Avoid link text like “Click Here,” “More,” and “Read More.” These kinds of links can be confusing when a screen reader reads them out of context. Use unique link text where possible. This reassures your readers that they have arrived on the page they intended to reach, and haven’t gotten lost by accidentally clicking something else. Example: For more information, visit upcoming events on the Disability Rights NC website.
- Text spacing & alignment: Use a line spacing (line height) that is at least 1.5 times the font size. This provides enough space between lines to make the text easier to read, especially for individuals with visual impairments. Left-aligned text is generally the most accessible, as it provides a consistent starting point for readers, especially for those who read from left to right.
Want a deeper dive into accessibility? Check out the following links!