According to the CDC website, one in four American adults has some type of disability. This means that about sixty-one million adults in the U.S. would benefit from the accessibility tools available for websites and social media, yet many content creators and editors are still not using these tools.
Nonprofit RespectAbility’s Communications Vice President Lauren Appelbaum and Communications Associate Eric Ascher discussed disability and gave tips for making a website more accessible in their session titled “How to Ensure Accessible Websites, Social Media and Inclusive Photos.”
“A lot of conferences have talked about how we can ensure that we are diverse, but we can’t be fully diverse until we include people with disabilities,” Appelbaum said.
Appelbaum defines accessibility as a “design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with all disabilities.” This means that all products, including websites, should be easy to use for everyone in an audience.
Accessibility is important for any society striving for inclusivity, and it makes good business sense, too. Appelbaum estimates that with over 25% of American adults with a disability of some kind, accessibility can reach a market share that is worth over $1 trillion.
Here are just a few of Ascher’s tips for making websites more accessible.
Alternative text (or alt text) is a text stand-in for an image and should allow a reader or listener to gain all the information in the image. Alt text should supply the image’s content and any other related information, like links embedded in the image. Some accessibility devices cannot read more than 100 characters, so alt text should be as concise as possible. Social media posts should include alt text as well.
Some people can’t tell colors apart and colors can lose meaning in high contrast, so colors shouldn’t be the only way to distinguish aspects of an image or website. Using contrasting colors can help, including using different colored outlines or borders on text. Colors shouldn’t be too similar; Ascher suggests dark text on light backgrounds and light text on dark backgrounds.
Links within text copy and fields on fill-in-the-blank forms like “Contact Me” forms should both contain clear descriptions. Links should be included in body copy like this rather than including “click here” after a sentence. Each blank on a blank form should be labeled, ideally on the right of checkboxes and to the left or directly above other form fields in a left-to-right language like English.
Video and audio posted on a website should have a synchronized alternative, like captions or an ASL interpreter. Most video on social media is watched without sound on, even among people with full hearing ability, and captions provide all the information that sound would. Captions differ from subtitles in that subtitles only repeat what’s being spoken while captions also include written depictions of other sounds including sounds in the environment or music.
Appelbaum and Ascher’s session also gives a tutorial on adding alt text on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as introducing YouTube’s live captions as a source for captioning. Attendees who missed the session live can view the recording, transcript, and slides through Pathable until July 31, 2021.