Being diverse is the only way we can be. Being inclusive is the best we can do.
Disability is part of the diversity and inclusion conversation, alongside race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. As purpose-driven marketers and content creators, starting inclusive conversations and creating accessible content is our responsibility.
"Disabled people" is defined in the UN Disability Convention as "people who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others".
Nearly 1.2 billion people are disabled in the world. That makes it nearly 15% of the global population. If we are not doing our best to create accessible content, we exclude a huge audience segment.
Here are a few ways to set this right.
1. Add Alt Text to images, so the blind can see
The alternative text, or alt text, allows the blind to see images by making them accessible for screen readers to comprehend the image. Add to that, alt text gets displayed when an image fails to load. It also helps search engine crawlers get the content and context of the image, which helps with indexing and ranking in image search results.
Best alt texts are the ones describing the image, in about 125 characters, not stuffed with unnecessary keywords and never begin with the phrase ‘a photo of’.
2. Caption all videos, for the deaf to hear
Nearly 5% of the world’s population has significant deafness. Not captioning videos is like telling them “my content is not for you”. Videos with captions hold longer attention spans. More people watch short-form videos without sound. Imagine yourself scrolling your social media on a bus, most likely you are playing it on mute! Closed captions give the person watching, the freedom to turn it on or off and are auto-generated by the platform the video is playing on. Whereas, open captions are what content creators include as part of the video.
Also, remember to use high-contrast colours and simple, preferably sans-serif fonts while captioning. Keeping it simple works best.
There are various free and premium tools to help you create open captions. I am a big fan of iOS Clips for my short-form videos. Capcut is great too. Another cheap and cheerful way to caption your videos is on Instagram. I show how-to in this 1-minute video.
3. Pascal Case hashtags, to separate one word from the next
A Pascal Case hashtag is capitalising the first letter of each word of a multiple-word hashtag. This is an example - “I write Content on #DiversityAndInclusion”. It is easier to read than #diversityandincluison. Easier to read by a human and by a screen reader. It helps to distinguish words next to one another, increasing their legibility. I wish social media platforms automatically provided the popular hashtags in Pascal or camelCase so that we did not have to do it manually. For personal hashtags, such as mine #WonderingMo – the platform may not know where to break the words, but why should it not when using popular ones such as #ContentMarketing or #DigitalMarketing?
A camelCase is similar to PascalCase, only the first letter of the first word is not capitalised.
4. Do not use Unicode fonts, the screen reader makes it sound gibberish
Unicode fonts may look stylized, and help your content stand out visually, but it is inaccessible to screen readers. These characters are either skipped entirely or read incoherently. Unicode is a global coding standard that includes characters and symbols from every language. Characters are defined by unique codes so that devices, websites, social media or email platforms decode them the same way.
Except for screen readers! For a Unicode font, what may look like a standard text, e.g., the letter ‘M’, will be read as “mathematical sans-serif bold script m”. That was the screen reader reading just one letter. Now imagine it reading my name, for example, Moumita, describing every single letter. And now think of a website, social post, or email written in Unicode font. What will the person reading it on a screen reader, experience? Gibberish, that’s correct!
5. Do not overuse emojis, the screen reader describes each one
Emojis are a great way to say a lot without saying a lot. In most cases, they have the same meaning around the world. A smiley face like this 😊 is a smiley face in New Zealand as much as it is in India. But use it in moderation.
Every time you use an emoji, the screen reader describes each one of them. If you use a series of smiley faces in a row, a blind person is hearing the screen reader repeat it. Every single time. 😊😊😊 Smiley face. Smiley face. Smiley face. That’s already three times. And not a great reading experience!
6. Use strobe GIFs thoughtfully, it may cause photosensitive seizures
While GIFs or looped animation content is an entertaining way to engage your audience, make sure they are accessible to everyone. Those with photosensitive epilepsy and other seizure disorders may be triggered by strobe or flashing visual content.
If you are using strobe or flashing GIFs, make sure the flashes are less than three times per second. And for GIFs that play for more than five seconds, use the ones that can be paused, stopped, or hidden.
Start with empathy and the belief that we want more people to see what we see, and hear what we hear. When the intent is in place, tools come easily. So, build the tools in your creative process. And repeat it consistently.
Kia ora. I am Moumita Das Roy, #WonderingMo on LinkedIn and I advocate for creating Content with Intent.