In her ACES 2018 session, Pam Hogle presented ways in which digital content can be made accessible to everyone, including those with visual or auditory impairments.
Hogle writes about creating accessible digital content for eLearning Guild’s Learning Solution. Hogle is also a freelance writer and editor and a former trainer of service dogs.
Hogle said there are three reasons to create accessible digital content:
• It’s the right thing to do.
• It expands your potential audience (i.e., improved SEO).
• It’s required by law (i.e., the Americans with Disabilities Act).
Hogle said many disabilities are invisible. From dyslexia to epilepsy to color blindness to deafness to arthritis, it’s important that editors remove the barriers that prevent people from accessing digital content.
To make content accessible for people with auditory impairments, Hogle said videos should include captions. Hogle also stressed that closed captioning is widely used by those who don’t have hearing impairments.
Similarly, for people with no or low vision, videos should include audio descriptions. For example, see Disney’s audio-description trailer of “Frozen”, Hogle said.
In regard to people with poor vision, Hogle also reminded editors to use colors that contrast sharply when designing pages, so text can be read easily. Editors must also be aware of designing for people with color blindness. This means taking caution when designing with greens and reds, Hogle said.
Next, Hogle explained the process of using HTML tags to enhance digital accessibility.
Hogle said people with low or no vision use screen readers, like Siri, to access digital content. Since screen readers work by reading text aloud, editors need to make sure that all content can be read by a screen reader in a way that makes sense to listeners. In essence, editors must create hierarchy to prevent text from becoming a long string of disorganized babble.
Editors can do this by using HTML tags. HTML tags are embedded in texts and images and create a logical flow for screen readers. Tags are also used to describe visuals for those that can’t see them.
What to tag:
Titles and headlines. Tagging headlines provides context for screen readers, so the headline doesn’t flow into the main body of a text. Tagging headlines also improves your SEO. The body of the text should also be tagged.
Links. Never insert a link as a URL because the screen reader will read the jumble of characters. Links should provide context and should never be written as “click here” or “more.” Moreover, links should be tagged, so screen-reader users know that a link is there. When tagging links, include where the link will take the reader.
Images and graphics. Tags for images and graphics are called alt text. Tag visuals with a description of what’s happening in the image, so screen-reader users can identify and comprehend them. Even if there are captions, it’s still necessary to tag images and graphics. When you’re describing images and graphics, don’t use colors as a description.
For a more thorough explanation of HTML tagging as well as directions on how to tag, access Hogle’s ACES 2018 resource guide.
Hogle concluded her session by stressing the importance of treating people with disabilities with respect.
Hogle said to keep these things in mind when writing about disability:
• Refer to the person first and the disability second — but ask sources their preference.
* Use accurate terms.
• People with disabilities are not (all) heroes. Write about them as you would write about any other person.
• Only mention the disability if it’s relevant to the story.
• Avoid “Inspiration Porn.”