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How to Make Your Online Content Accessible for All

Apr 22, 2021
(updated: Dec 4, 2022)
Max 5 min read

As I scroll Twitter, I always see a plethora of tweets from people promoting their own podcasts or raving about someone else’s.

After I go to check them out, I often see the same thing over and over again: There are no transcripts accompanying what I assume are great podcast episodes. I have mild-to-moderate hearing loss and read lips, so only listening to audio can be very tiring for 30 or 60 minutes. 

I do sometimes bring up to content creators that they should have transcripts for captions, but I am always met with the reaction that they do not have the time to transcribe the podcast itself, or are unable to pay someone to do so.

This is a frustrating but normal situation that many disabled people face when they ask for accommodations, that our needs are not worth a person or company’s time or cost. 

But our needs do matter, and there are steps that everyone can take to make their content more accessible. Here are five things that you should remember – whether you are making social media posts, podcasts, articles, or videos. 

Have transcripts or captions available

If you have anything with audio, there should always be text that tells the person viewing the text what a person or people said. The type of text varies a lot depending on the type of content that you are creating. As I mentioned earlier, podcasts should have transcripts. 

For live videos, I recommend that people use automated captions or hire a person to write the captions in real-time. Even if you plan on releasing a transcript later, Deaf and hard-of-hearing people still deserve to know what is happening at that moment. I have attended virtual talks without automated captions and missing what a person says always throws me off. 

If you create a pre-recorded video, you should have captions that are created by a person and reviewed by a person. Automated or live captions written by a person can have a lot of errors, especially if the speaker has an accent or a speech impediment. 

Use alternative text for images

Have you ever noticed when Instagram stops working, you see a few words that either slightly or inaccurately describes a photo? That is alternative text. Blind people and people with low vision use software, called screen readers, that read the alternative text to them. If there is no or simple alternative text, an image or graphic is not accessible for them.

You can add alternative text to social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. If you have a website, alternative text can also be added as well. If you don’t have alternative text for a graphic on your site, screen readers may not be able to detect the message that you are trying to share. 

Alternative text should describe what is happening in an image or graphic. If there is text in your image, make sure to also write out what the message is in your alternative text. 

Alternative text should describe what is happening in an image or graphic.

Pay attention to the color scheme

One great thing about making content more accessible is that you can make your product even better. One way to do this is by evaluating your color scheme on your website or social media posts.

For example, if you post a graphic with an important message on Twitter, you want the text to stand out to a potential consumer. If the text is dark green and the background is a medium-to-dark shade of blue, the text may not stand out. For people with non-perfect vision or who are colorblind, they may struggle to read this. You can use the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool for websites to see if the color scheme may make it difficult to read. 

Make sure the font is readable

In addition to evaluating the color scheme, you should also make sure that the font, both the size and the type, are easy for the average person to read. You should also make sure that the text doesn't overlap with each other. 

While having text in italics or in a Serif font, like Times New Roman, may seem appealing, it can be difficult for people with dyslexia to read. Arial is generally considered to be the most accessible font, but Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Verdana are also good options.

A “good” size for text depends on the layout of a website or the size of a graphic. Webaim says people should be able to zoom in up to 200 percent on a website, in case the text is too small for them.  

Plain language is a good thing

If you use a lot of academic jargon and other complex terminology related to specialties, like tech or medicine, it may not be the most accessible. It is a good idea to keep your language straightforward so that people with disabilities which may affect their reading and processing of information can grasp what you write quickly.

Writing news, for example, in a clear way has been very important during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because people can understand what rules are in place in their area, and how COVID-19 has affected their community. Plain language benefits everyone – at the end of our day, it is nice to read or listen to someone speak who explains information that is accessible to a general audience. 

If you are looking for ways to make your content more accessible for disabled people and need advice, you could consult disabled people directly. Disabled people like myself are often not paid at all when we give valued critiques to media companies and creators to make their content more accessible, so consulting with disabled people is a great way to pay for our labor.

But most of all, it is important to have an open mind about changing your content to make it more accessible for members of the disability community. Our needs are not monolithic, but they all deserve to be met.

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