We live in a world full of action, motion, bright colors, joyful noises, and beautiful scenarios that happen constantly. We’re all worried about missing out on events, activities, and videos on the Internet. But what about those who DO miss out on the noise and the visuals that surround us? How do we as marketers and advertisers make content more inclusive and accessible for the visually and hearing impaired? Now, more than ever, including everyone is paramount. You can do several things to reach the disabled community in inclusive, welcoming, and appreciated ways.
The American Disabilities Act doesn’t address the internet or websites directly. Still, the same principles apply: if you don’t make your website accessible, how will this often overlooked community find out about you and your company? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the World Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997 to address the disabled’s issues with computer use. In 1999, W3C, in conjunction with WAI, published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that consisted of 14 rules that made the web a little more user-friendly for those with disabilities.
But in 2008, WC3 clarified how to make the web even more accessible with exacting standards and details with WCAG 2.0: Perceivability, Operability, Understandability, and make the experience Robust, also known as POUR. Using this acronym, let’s explore the different ways you can make your website and content accessible for everyone.
To perceive is to read and receive information. But how do you help a blind/visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing person read your content if they can’t see or hear it? Google’s ChromeVox, Microsoft’s Narrator, and Mac’s Voiceover are screen readers that translate website content into a speaking voice that they can listen to, translating into plain text. The software scans the page and reads line by line. Another addition is in video descriptions.
Integrated video descriptions flesh out content for the visually impaired by describing facial expressions, backgrounds, scenes, and other visual elements that need explaining for content context. For the deaf/hearing impaired, if it’s an auditory article or visual with sound, closed captions, subtitles, and summaries of video content benefit the deaf user’s understanding.
Two of the greatest tools, when you use a computer, are a mouse and a keyboard. But, how does a blind or quadriplegic person operate a mouse or a keyboard? The screen reader software assists with vocal commands that move around the screen instead of physically mousing around. For the deaf, an American Sign Language (ASL) keyboard invented in 2016 helps translate ASL to written and spoken English to accommodate the linguistic and grammar differences between the two languages.
Receiving content from a website or video is one thing; understanding is another. For a blind person, the content spoken by a screen reader could be mistranslated. Same with closed captioning and subtitles. The help of audio headers and labels on a page can help the blind use your website and understand your content more clearly. Writing consistent language across all pages on the site or in the video will also help the visually impaired understand your site or video better. Another helpful addition is input assistant on your site or video. If something lacks clarity and needs more elaboration, the help is there.
Accessibility enables a robust user experience. Make all your content available in the same format and code with inclusive, consistent language that everyone can enjoy. Be aware that not all computer languages are compatible with screen readers or closed caption technology. Review your voice-over, video descriptions, closed captions, and subtitles carefully and, again, use predictable language, so pages and videos translate correctly. Remember, your content must be translatable for many different uses, users, platforms, devices, and interpreters for assistive technologies that help the blind, deaf, and physically disabled and those with learning disabilities and psychological disorders.
By putting thought and accessibility into your content design, people with various disabilities will be able to use, understand, and become informed consumers of your brand and website. So, put up that welcome sign of accessibility and open your brand/business up to an even larger and welcoming audience.