As marketing professionals, it's crucial to ensure that your digital content is accessible to all users. Digital accessibility refers to designing and creating digital content in a way that allows individuals of all abilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with it effectively. By incorporating digital accessibility into your marketing strategies, you can reach a wider audience and promote inclusivity.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law in the United States that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. ADA Title III specifically covers accessibility requirements for public accommodations, which include websites and digital content. While there are no specific federal regulations outlining technical requirements for digital accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are widely recognized as the industry standard for creating accessible digital content.
Known as the P.O.U.R. principles, the following 4 basic tenets of accessibility from the WCAG should govern all of your design choices when creating deliverables for a client; all media should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
This principle focuses on making digital content perceivable to all users, meaning that it should not be invisible to all of one’s senses. Some examples of making content perceivable include writing alt-text for images so that they can be transcribed, captions on video and audio content, taking note of the contrast in your designs, and making sure it is strong enough to clearly distinguish different elements from one another.
This principle focuses on making digital content functional for all users. Some tips for achieving operability include making sure that all functionality on your website is accessible via keyboard and avoiding design choices that may cause seizures or adverse physical reactions.
This principle focuses on making digital content understandable to all users, including those with cognitive or language disabilities. To make your content more understandable, consider using clear and simple language and helping users correct mistakes or navigate errors successfully.
This principle focuses on creating digital content that is robust and compatible with current and future technologies. To ensure the robustness of your content, test it using different assistive technologies, such as screen readers or voice recognition software to confirm their compatibility.
As mentioned above, alt text, short for alternative text, is a text description that can be added to images on websites, emails, and other digital content. Alt text is used by screen readers to describe the content of images to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Writing effective alt text is an important aspect of digital accessibility, so as a marketer of any specialization, it is important to know how to effectively include it in your projects.
You don’t need to write out a whole paragraph – a few words or a short sentence should suffice. Simply write out a description of what you see in the image. For example, instead of “Swing in the park,” you might say “Kids playing on a wooden tree swing in a park full of flowers.” You want to add as much detail as possible to help the reader make sense of the image in their mind. Be concise, though, and keep your alt text description to 125 characters or under, as many screen readers will cut off alt text beyond this length.
If an image has accompanying text nearby, such as a caption or heading, you don't need to repeat that same information. Alt text should provide additional context that is not already present in the surrounding content.
If an image is the main focus of your content or is integral to the message of your work, you may want to write more in-depth alt-text that truly helps you convey its contents. Remember, the intent of alt text is to make content accessible to everyone, so you should strive to evoke the same emotions and feelings as you do with the original image.
Incorporating relevant keywords into your alt text is an easy way to up your page’s SEO, so if one of your keywords helps you describe an image, amazing! But don’t go out of your way to keyword stuff, as this can be considered spammy and takes away from the purpose of alt text.
Understanding the basics of digital accessibility is essential to creating a marketing strategy because it ensures that your content will be consumable by everyone. Visit ADA.gov for more information on digital accessibility and best practices!