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As conversations around the world are acknowledging the underrepresentation of POC and minority groups in marketing, I felt that the topic of digital accessibility (specifically for those with disabilities) should also be on the radar.

1 in 5 Australians has a disability. That’s over 4 million people. And the majority of these 4 million people are statistically proven to want to shop online and carry out their life admin online over in-person transactions. 

When it comes to digital marketing (your website, your social content, your email marketing etc) businesses often unintentionally overlook the needs of their disabled audiences. Whilst we are aware that our marketing must be visually inclusive, many small business owners don’t know that there are actually technical requirements (that are legal requirements in some countries) to ensure your digital brand presence is actually accessible to the disabled community.

Ensuring that your business’ marketing is accessible is super-easy, but it’s something that many small businesses unintentionally neglect to do.

The laws around web accessibility vary from country to country but the best guidelines to follow if you’re in for the big read are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. However these are not laws and the regulations for your personal business may be different based upon your State or your Country. (#sorrymarketeerherenotalawyer)

Today I’m going to take you through three easy ways to make your website and your digital marketing more accessible. I challenge you to action at least one of these stupidly easy changes before next weekend is out. 

Let me know how you get on by tagging @DearCharlieMarketing on Instagram.

Before I get stuck in, these are technical wizardry that will make your marketing accessible. The visual representation of people of mixed abilities, races, nationalities and genders in your marketing imagery is a no-brainer. We should all be doing more to be conscious of appropriately representing all people in our marketing. ✊✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

So, let’s get started shall we?


ONE: Always use ALT tags

You’re probably thinking… “WTF is an ALT Tag?” 

OK, so an ALT tag is a small piece of descriptive text that you include alongside your imagery. You can insert this in your website, your emails and in your Instagram posts.

Alt Tags are actually super valuable for SEO as they help Search Engines crawl your site more effectively (AKA you should be using them anyway). But ALT tags are super important for users with visual impairments.

Why?

Many visually impaired people use a piece of equipment called a screen reader to tell them what is on a web page. If you’ve included your ALT tags when the screen reader scans the page it will use your ALT text to describe to the reader what they can’t see in the image.

Not sure how to add ALT Tags to your website, emails or social media? Get in touch.

Instagram Screenshot

TWO: Avoid Image-only layouts

This is one I often come up against with clients who want to use detailed custom fonts that are not web safe and unavailable in their email client or website CMS. 

So this is an example of gorgeous email that I love receiving, because it is BEAUTIFUL. But the reality? All the content within this email would be invisible to a screenreader, as it’s made up of images. (Want to check - try highlighting a line of t…

So this is an example of gorgeous email that I love receiving, because it is BEAUTIFUL. But the reality? All the content within this email would be invisible to a screenreader, as it’s made up of images. (Want to check – try highlighting a line of text with your cursor in an email and you’ll see it doesn’t get selected, the whole image block does instead).

They want something to look super sexy (don’t we all?) but the only way they can achieve this on their website without investing in coding is by pulling it all together in an image file that they then upload into a single image block on their website.

Image only layouts are inaccessible for people with visual impairments. Complex fonts are also difficult to read if you’re visually impaired and you don’t use a screen reader. Heck, sometimes they’re just difficult to read with 20/20 vision, which is just poor UX all round.

As mentioned before, partially sighted people may rely on screen readers and so, when you’re only able to use a short amount of ALT text to describe your images, you can’t convey the message of your image effectively.

At the risk of going off on a tangent… There are a few points to be made about fonts here.

A web safe font is one from a selection of specific fonts that are included with most operating systems. In other words, these are the most likely to display as you intend them to. If you’ve ever experienced that sinking feeling when you open a Powerpoint presentation on another person’s computer to discover they don’t have the same fonts and everything’s gone Times New Roman? This is what using a web safe font will avoid.

Firstly. When you’re getting your branding designed, talk to your graphic designer about web safe fonts and get them to provide guidance as to which you should use that are most in-keeping with your brand. You should aim to always use a web safe font for your emails if you’re wanting to avoid that Powerpoint feeling.

Secondly. Plan for what you are willing to pay for. You can insert custom fonts using code into most website CMS (content management systems) but the majority of the platforms that indie businesses use (Squarespace, Wix etc) will charge you for a more expensive account to give you the ability to do so. If you’re keeping your business costs lean, tell your designer this so that they can accommodate this and design for the available fonts within your website or email client CMS.

Finally, having all your text within an image is really bad for SEO. (Search Engine Optimisation). You need live text (AKA actual text) on a page for Search Engines to be able to crawl your content and rank your web page. Hover your mouse cursor over a website page and try and highlight the text – that is live text.

OK, sorry I got a bit off track, but this image thing really is a bugbear of mine. *Makes mental note to do a separate blog post to get all the reasons you need to know more about this out in one handy place*.

If you’re using images with text ensure you do so sparingly and always include ALT text for the reasons above.


THREE: Avoid using flashing images or videos that automatically play when you visit a website or open an email.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the epilepsy warning before they play a video clip on the news or in a TV show.

Well guess what? 

Your website or email doesn’t have that disclaimer before opening. 

Give your users a chance to decide whether or not they want to be confronted with a flashing image and make your website more accessible for those who suffer from seizures and/or who are affected by visual stimuli.

The WCAG that I linked to above suggests that:

“Web pages do not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period, or the flash is below the general flash and red flash thresholds”.

(FYI bounce rates are also statistically shown to increase when you add in an auto-play video to a website, so avoid when you can. Yes they look fancy, but no, they’re not great for keeping people on your website. #justsaying).

Websites with autoplay video content also fail to deliver this information to their users who rely on screen readers.

There is SO much more best practice when it comes to accessibility for your website and your marketing that I could teach you. I’ve not even touched on accessibility for those with a physical impairment for example. But, this is a blog post not a novel so I’m going to leave things there for now.

Remember, I’d love to know what you’re going to do from these tips. Let me know by tagging @DearCharlieMarketing on Instagram and I’ll share my fave posts.

And there’s always something new to learn. Even when you’ve been doing this thing for years.

After revisiting some of these guidelines to create this post it reminded me that PDFs are notoriously bad for screen readers. Yes (hands up) I’d forgotten. So, I’m going to be making an effort to include an option for people to request a Word or HTML version of my free downloads which I always provide in PDF format. So, that is my takeaway today and something I’ll be trying to action over the coming weeks.