Hi there! My name is Kaylee and I’m a Design SHINE Specialist for Deloitte Services LP. While I spend most of my time creating layouts, concepting for visual identities, and making sure no one uses Comic Sans, I also am passionate about educating others and myself on accessibility. A big thanks to Avid Core’s Stephanie Mace for letting me share my experiences through a guest post!
Before we dive into the core of this, I want to make it apparent that I don’t speak for all disabled people. I have my own experiences with my disabilities and have been afforded privileges others may not have. I want to use that privilege to elevate voices in the community and continue to learn about new perspectives, because I don’t always have all the information. Disability is not just a person in a wheelchair—disability comes in all types, and each disabled person’s experience is equally as valid as another’s.
The purpose of those statistics and Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), is to show how important digital inclusion is. Everyone who has access to an internet browsing device should also have access to the content.
According to access-board.gov, Section 508 states that “Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an ‘undue burden.’” This keeps people accountable and ensures disabled people have equal access to information. So how can you help make technology accessible?
One of the most important parts about integrating accessibility in your work flow is to get the proper training related to the platform you’re working on. While it would be great if you or your company could source an outside vendor that was an expert on content accessibility, I know that’s not always available. Instead, you can look at resources online to integrate inclusivity in your work and not rely on automated accessibility companies. Each platform you work on is going to have a different accessibility measure to take on, so I’ve included a few tips to help you get started.
#1: Use Alt Text (or more technically, Alt Attributes), any time you have a visual in your document or on your website.
Alt Text is important for screen readers, which is an assistive technology device typically used by blind or low vision individuals. The screen reader will take the Alt Text, or text describing a visual it’s attached to, and read it aloud so blind or low vision viewers are able to better understand the visual content. You may have seen this feature on social media platforms like Instagram or on applications like Adobe Acrobat under Accessibility.
Here’s a link from Adobe on how you can make your PDFs accessible through Alt Text.
#2: Make sure that all of your videos have closed-captioning or open-captioning.
Closed-captioning, which can be turned on and off, and open-captioning, which stays on the screen, is text shown during a video or webcast. The text displays spoken dialogue and any audio cues of the surroundings. Because there are a variety of platforms you can post videos on, there are different ways to caption them for anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, non-native speakers of the content’s original language, or someone in an environment where they need the sound off. It is detrimental to rely on automated captioning capabilities because these features are rarely ever accurate and are a disservice to the viewers who need those captions.
Here’s one link from Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, a deaf YouTuber, so you can learn how to caption your YouTube uploads.
#3: Pair all of your podcasts with transcripts.
Since podcasts typically do not have a video feature attached to them, you need to have a transcript, or a typed version of the audio, readily available for the same audience included in tip number two. There are pros and cons to providing a PDF versus plain text/HTML on the site, so it might be best to do both if possible.
This website provides examples, how to set up podcast transcripts, and more.
#4: Ensure that the website you’ve created is accessible.
There are a variety of points to keep in mind when it comes to website accessibility, including the tips I’ve already listed. It’s also important to use a color palette with enough contrast, which makes it easier for blind and low vision viewers to separate content. Any flashing or moving elements that last for three or more seconds should have the ability to be paused for epileptic viewers.
The WCAG is the industry standard for website accessibility. If you want to go through a checklist to ensure your site is accessible and learn about other related information, you can check out the W3 website.
Accessibility is integral to incorporate through a variety of digital mediums for equal access. These few tips and links I’ve listed are by no means an exhaustive list of everything that involves inclusive technology and the disabilities they assist. I implore you to do your own research, listen to a variety of disabled perspectives, and continue learning and adapting to the evolving accessibility standards. Don’t just do the bare minimum because Section 508 says you have to—go above and beyond to make equal access for all a possibility.
You can learn more about GAAD on the GAAD website.