By Alice Everdeen
Nearly one in four Americans have a disability, according to the most recent data from the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, yet media content is often not created with them in mind.
As media professionals, we have a responsibility to make our content available to everyone. Luckily, there are some simple steps we can take to make our content more accessible for people with disabilities.
Use Clear and Concise Language
When we use clear and concise language, we are more likely to be understood by a wider audience. This is especially important when we are discussing complex topics or ideas. When writing for a general audience, it is important to keep our language as simple and clear as possible. This will help ensure that our message is received loud and clear!
It is also important to use language that is familiar to our audience. We should avoid using jargon, metaphors, or acronyms whenever possible. If we must use them, be sure to explain what they mean. Our goal should be to make our content as accessible and understandable as possible!
Include Alt Text With Images
Another way to make content more accessible is by including alt text with images. Alt text is a short description of an image that can be read by screen readers. This is important for people who are unable to see the image. By including alt text, we are able to provide them with the information they need to understand what happening in the image.
The exception to this rule is when an image is used purely for decoration. In this case, it's best to leave the alt text field blank. For example, alt text is not needed for images that are used as bullet points or for images that do not contribute to the content of the article.
Be Selective With Color Choices
When it comes to color, more is not always better. In fact, when it comes to design, using too many colors can actually make your site less accessible for individuals with color deficiency, which affects nearly 8% of the population. This is because people with color deficiencies can have difficulty differentiating between similar colors.
Individuals with deuteranomaly- the most common type of color deficiency, affecting nearly 6% of males- have difficulty differentiating greens and reds, while those with protanomaly have difficulty differentiating blues and greens. If you are designing for a general audience, it is important to keep this in mind.
When designing your media, choose a limited palette of high-contrast colors that can be easily differentiated by people with color deficiencies. You can also use color to highlight important information, such as calls-to-action.
Offer Audio Descriptions of Videos
Audio description is a narration of the action in a video that is intended for people who are blind or have low vision. This is an important way to make video content accessible for everyone. By providing audio description, we are able to provide people with the information they need to understand what is happening in the video.
There are a few different ways to provide audio description. One way is to include it as part of the main audio track. Another way is to provide it as an alternate audio track. And finally, some media players allow you to turn on audio description by default.
If you're not sure how to get started with audio description, there are a few resources available online, such as the Audio Description Project and the Audio Description Coalition.
Provide Transcripts for Audio and Video Content
If you're creating audio or video content, it's important to provide transcripts. This is so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can still consume your content. It's also helpful for people who may not be able to listen to the audio. Transcripts provide a written record of what was said in the audio or video, which can be read at any time.
There are a few different ways to create transcripts for your audio and video content. One way is to transcribe the content yourself. This is usually the most accurate option, but it can be time-consuming. Another option is to use automatic transcription software. This software will generate a transcript from your audio or video files, but it's not always 100% accurate. Finally, you can hire a professional transcription service to transcribe your content for you. This is usually the most expensive option, but it's also the most accurate.
No matter which option you choose, be sure to proofread your transcript before publishing it. This will help ensure that it is accurate and easy to understand.
Add Captions to Your Videos
Similar to offering transcriptions, adding captions to video content is another great way to make your content more accessible. Captions are a written record of the audio in a video, which can be displayed on-screen. This is helpful for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for people who may not be able to listen to the audio for whatever reason.
If you'd like to add captions to your videos, there are a few different options available. You can choose to create them yourself, use an automatic captioning software, or hire a professional transcription service.
Use Headings and Lists to Structure Your Content
When we structure our content using headings and lists, we make it easier for people to find the information they need. This is especially important for people with disabilities, who may have difficulty navigating long blocks of text. Headings and lists help break up our content and make it easier to scan. They also make it easier to jump to specific sections of our content.
If we want people to be able to find our content easily, it's important to use descriptive headings. For example, if we're writing a blog post about tips for media professionals, we might use the heading "Tips for Media Professionals." This tells the reader what the blog post is about and helps them decide whether or not they want to read it.
We can also use lists to structure our content. This is especially helpful when we're listing a series of steps or tips. For example, we might list the "Top Ten Tips for Media Professionals." This makes our content easier to read and digest. It also helps the reader find the information they're looking for quickly and easily.
By using concise headings and lists, we can make our content more accessible for everyone.
Avoid Ableist Language
Ableist language is any language that reinforces the idea that people with disabilities are inferior to those without disabilities. This could be in the form of words or phrases such as "lame," "crazy," "tone deaf," or "dumb." This language is not only hurtful, but it can also be exclusionary.
If you're not sure whether or not a word or phrase is ableist, err on the side of caution and don't use it. There are plenty of other words and phrases out there that we can use instead!
Give Links Descriptive Names
When designing a website, giving links descriptive names can make it easier for people to understand what they're clicking on. People with disabilities may not be able to see the linked content. For example, if you have a link to a PDF document, you might name the link "PDF Document." This tells the reader what they're going to get when they click on the link.
It's also important to use descriptive names for links that go to external sites. This is because people with disabilities may not be familiar with the site you're linking to. For example, if you're linking to a site about accessible media, you might name the link "Accessible Media." This tells the reader what the site is about and helps them decide whether or not they want to visit it.
By following these tips, we can ensure that our content is accessible for everyone. This will help create a more inclusive world for people with disabilities, and ultimately lead to a better understanding of the issues facing this community. Thank you for taking the time to make your content more accessible!