Despite the fact that we all spend a lot of time living in a digital world, we’re taught rather little about digital accessibility. As a result, lots of digital content (websites, blogs, PDFs, Word documents, videos, etc.) are inaccessible to many. You could spend a lifetime learning about digital accessibility and still make mistakes, but there are also a few simple things that you can do to make sure your digital content meets basic accessibility standards.
If your digital content includes images, make sure you have written alt-text for those images. On the internet, adding alt-text is almost always an option you are presented with when uploading a photo (and this includes on social media!).
- Your alt-text should describe the image in a way that helps your audience understand the purpose of the image. Your alt-text for a photo of someone knitting, for example, may differ when you are talking about knitting generally, versus when you are talking about knitting a very specific item.
- You don’t need to start your alt-text with “a picture of”, as the audience will already be aware that it’s a picture being described.
First and foremost, use headings to break up your text. This helps everybody. On the internet, people don’t generally read every word you write, especially when the are looking for specific information (sorry). Headings allow people to skim your content easily. They also allow people using screen readers to easily navigate your content.
- Headings are not created by making text bold, capitalized, or underlined. You need to the heading styles and tags. In any word processing software, the heading style are generally found in the top ribbon. When creating content on websites and blogs, the heading styles can generally be found in the top ribbon of the editor as well.
- Heading 1 is generally used only once in a document/post, and that’s for the title.
- Don’t skip heading levels. If your section header is heading two, then your sub-section should use heading three, and so on.
Hyperlinks are abundant in the digital world, and quite frankly, they’re super helpful. They’re extra helpful when they’re done in a way that is accessible.
- The text of your hyperlink should be written in a way so that you can read only the hyperlinked text, and still understand what you’ll find behind the link. Hyperlinking phrases like “click here” or “learn more” should be avoided like the plague.
- In general, don’t hyperlink a full URL. Typically, they aren’t fun to read and don’t always provide a good indication of what you’ll find. There are times when hyperlinking a full URL is valid, but use it sparingly.
- In general, don’t set your hyperlinks to open in a new window or tab. They should open in the window/tab you are currently in. The ‘back’ button in a web browser is one of two main ways people navigate the internet (the other is the search bar); you’re hyperlinks shouldn’t break this navigation.
If you are creating a video, make sure your video has captions. If you are showing a video (in a class, for example), make sure you turn on the captions for the people watching.
- If you’re hosting your video on YouTube, the platform will automatically caption your video (which is super convenient). However, they don’t input punctuation, and they’re not always 100% accurate, so you will need to go in and make edits.
- Make sure your captions line up with the timing of the audio. It can be very confusing and jarring if the captions and audio are out of sync.
- Make sure you caption all audio, not just dialogue. Other sounds that are relevant to the video should be noted in the caption as well.
We all like colour, because it makes things pretty. But it doesn’t always make things accessible.
- When using colour, make sure the colour-contrast between the foreground and the background is high (i.e. between the text and the background). This doesn’t just mean make sure you can easily read the text; use a colour-contrast checker to double-check that everyone will be able to easily read the text.
- Limit your use of colour with a purpose.
I’m not an accessibility expert, and there is so much to learn beyond what is above. Start here, and then commit to learning more. We all need to do better to create an accessible digital world.
This post is an initial draft of an EDCI 565 project.