How do I ensure that the digital content I create is accessible?

Creating accessible digital content helps you share the work of your heritage organisation with more people. This resource by Diversity & Ability look at both the ethical and legal requirements of ensuring your digital content is accessible. It provides a step-by-step guide from alt text to accessible hashtags and everything in between.

Woman in wheelchair browsing smartphone in cafe and making notes
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.

How do I ensure that the digital content I create is accessible?

1. Why is it important to have accessible social media content?

With a few quick fixes and easy steps, your organisation’s social media can be made into a much more accessible, inclusive and successful space. And if you get it right, you’ll reap the rewards of creating accessible social media content. The benefits are as diverse as your audience include:

Demonstrating commitment to best practice

Adhering to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is one of the best ways to show that you are committed to making a space that’s inclusive and diverse.

By showing individuals that they can access your social media content, you’re signposting to them that they will be able to access the rest of your offerings, too; whether that’s physical spaces, online content or paid-for services. We often say “compliance means you don’t get sued; it doesn’t mean you include”. Taking the steps to move beyond compliance is where you’ll see the real rewards, and create a truly inclusive culture. But it’s a great first step!

Making more successful content

The more you adhere to WCAG, the more the various social media algorithms will reward you by boosting your content far and wide!

Often the most accessible practices are the most algorithm-friendly ones, too. For example, creating a written transcript to accompany your podcast doesn’t just mean enabling a whole additional audience to access the content, it also means it’s easily searchable, quotable and shareable!

Reaching a diverse audience

At Diversity and Ability, we always go beyond accessibility to thinking about genuine inclusion. To help you think about why inclusion is so important, reframe the question to focus on who you might be excluding at the moment, and how much this exclusion is costing you.

By creating inclusive content, you’ll be reaching new, captive, excited audiences and expanding your reach.

 

2. How can I make my social media accessible?

Keep three key focuses in mind when thinking about how to make your social media content accessible:

Language

Is your writing accessible, enabling and inclusive?

Representation

Who are you including in your content and images, and how are you representing them?

Perception

Can your content be accessed in diverse ways, rather than relying on just one format?

 

3. Models of disability

Models of disability explain how we understand the concept of disablement and the barriers faced by disabled people. Our language and communication has evolved from negative, derogatory blaming towards celebrating and valuing every individual. The following models help you understand the different ways people might talk and think about disability, and how your use of language can help break down disabling barriers.

Medical Model

  • Focuses on diagnosis.
  • Places blame and responsibility on an individual, suggesting they need to be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’.
  • Professionals see impairments and limitations, focus on diagnosis, and take action based on that (regardless of an individual’s preferences).

Social Model

  • Focuses on barriers; individuals are disabled by the barriers put in place by a society that only welcomes one type of person.
  • If we remove the barriers, individuals will be enabled and have access to fully participate and thrive.

Diversity & Ability’s Celebratory Model

  • Everyone is valued as unique individuals with their own brilliant skill set.
  • Adjustments that are made proactively, rather than waiting for an individual to ask for them, mean everyone is welcomed and enabled.
  • Fosters a sense of belonging, making the world a better and brighter place for everyone!

 

4. Language

Plain and concise wording

  • Speak in a clear and simple way
  • Aim for a ‘reading age’ of around 13 years old Keep tone of voice and vocabulary consistent Avoid (or clearly explain) jargon and acronyms
Top tip
Take advantage of free writing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App to ensure your language is clear and accessible.

 

Inclusive language

Use language that’s inclusive, enabling, and in line with the social model of disability. For example:

‘Disabled people’ not ‘people with disabilities’

‘Wheelchair users’ not ‘wheelchair-bound’

‘Non-disabled people’ not ‘able-bodied people’

Remove exclusionary vocabulary (for example, ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, ‘dumb’, ‘lame’) and analogies (for example, ‘falling on deaf ears’, ‘crippling debt’, ‘blind leading the blind’)

Check out the Government’s guides to inclusive language for more guidance.

 

5. Perception: text

Present text in an accessible way

  • Use #PascalCase or #camelCase for hashtags. This means capitalising the first letter of every word in a hashtag to ensure legibility, for example #AccessibleSocialMedia
  • Clearly order and space out your text. When you have character space (for example, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and in YouTube descriptions) ensure as much space as you can by creating paragraphs.
  • Where formatting allows, use bullet points and numbers to create linear content.
  • Use bold, not italics or underlining, to emphasise text.
Screenshot of Twitter post promoting next #HeritageChat focusing on 'Places of Worship'.
Screenshot of Twitter post promoting next #HeritageChat focusing on ‘Places of Worship’.

 

6. Perception: audio

Present audio in an accessible way

  • Provide transcripts for audio content like podcasts.
  • For live video, ensure automated captioning is enabled as a bare minimum (best practice would be to include live transcription and a BSL interpreter).
  • Keep background noises (including music) to a minimum. Avoid dramatic shifts in volume.
Top tip
Use Otter.ai for free (limited) transcriptions and YouTube’s automated captioning, but make sure to correct it to ensure accuracy.

 

Website screenshot of YouTube video on Clifford's Tower Revealed - Stories, reopening April 2022 with captions.
Website screenshot of YouTube video about Clifford’s Tower Revealed – Stories, reopening April 2022 with captions.

 

7. Perception: visuals

Making your visuals accessible

  • Avoid images of text whenever possible. When you do use them (for example, on Instagram), make sure all text is also written out in the caption or description.
  • Keep content clearly ordered. Ensure high colour contrast.
  • Always use image descriptions and alt text.
Top tip
Use online contrast checkers like contrastchecker.com or webaim.com/resources/contrastchecker.

 

@WMHistoricBuildingsTrust Instagram post: Become a Member! Get our printed newsletter, discounted entry to our events, and support our work through membership.

 

@Waterloo_Uncovered post: Give Back – pick up litter in your local area for 18 days and have your neighbours sponsor you; – give up a guilty pleasure for 18 days (coffee, wine, cake), and donate the money you save.

 

8. Image descriptions and alt text

  • Alt text is not visible in a social media post, but vital for ensuring images are accessible to people using screen readers. It’s usually shorter (125 characters or less) and contains the essential details of an image.
  • Image descriptions are more detailed and are visible in the captions.
  • Order your image descriptions and alt text using the following formula = object, action, and context.

For image descriptions:

  • Describe the image content but avoid using words related to sight (for example, don’t say “a tree is visible” or “you can see a man”).
  • Describe facial expressions.
  • Describe characteristics, if you know them (for example, if you know a person’s gender and race, this is important information to include, but make sure to never assume this information).
Top tip
For a full guide on writing image descriptions, and how to upload them on different social media platforms, head to Disability & Ability’s free resource.

 

9. What’s next?

Get practised in creating image descriptions and alt text, writing in #camelCase, and using inclusive language!

Follow Diversity & Ability on social media for top tips and up-to-date guidance on inclusive communications. Investigate how to make your website accessible to ensure holistic inclusion across your communications.

Top tip
Follow the Twitter account @AltTxtReminder and you’ll receive a Direct Message every time you post a photo without alt text!

 

Diversity and Ability's team
Diversity and Ability’s team

 

10. Download guide

Download: How do I make my social media content accessible by Diversity and Ability [pdf 5mb]

 



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How can I support diversity and inclusion through my online content? A step-by-step guide to inclusivity

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Accessible Marketing Guide

A comprehensive guide to making your marketing activity and communications accessible to the widest number of people. This version was updated in 2020 by Grace McDonagh, Marketing Officer, Artsadmin in partnership with AMAculturehive, with support from the UnlimitedArtsadmin and Shape Arts teams. The guide is also available as a PDF, large print, audio and Easy Read formats.

 

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Published: 2022


Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "How do I ensure that the digital content I create is accessible? (2022) by Diversity & Ability supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0




 
 


More help here



Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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