Accessibility isn’t an SEP. Confessions of a former accessibility-denier

Written by Lisa Riemers, Freelance Digital Communications Specialist

With years of experience working in and around communications and digital projects, I would say that I’ve got a stronger-than-average awareness that accessibility is An Important Thing.

I always thought I had the main tenets of accessibility nailed, although had a bit of an epiphany while learning from the team at Invotra. I spent some time reflecting on my own journey towards improving my understanding of accessibility.

When giving fellow content and comms people some basic training about updating their content online, in the past it’d go something along the lines of:

Alt text is important – imagine a screen reader reading your text!

“Alt text is like a description of the content. You know when you don’t download images in an email, and you get that tiny icon? Well, imagine you NEVER see pictures. That’s kind of the experience you get if you don’t put in the alt text.”

Or worse: Alt text is a sneaky form of SEO

“You know how we, according to brand guidelines, only sell our secure solutions, we never sell manned guarding? Alt text can be a crafty way to make sure the content that people search for IS on the site. So of course, you can name that picture ‘Security guard standing outside’ or ‘CCTV surveillance camera’”.

I’d leave out any complications about context, making sure you have a clear description which reflects the same experience for all, or whether the picture really adds any value if someone can’t see it.

Avoid click here at all costs

I’d go on and do some sort of terrible impression of a screen-reader (I’d never heard one in action) to say avoid using just “click here” – I’m still cringing thinking about it.

Putting meaningful anchor text in hyperlinks is important. It’s bad enough if you can see all of the context around the link. There’s a great excerpt on writing better links from Clearbox that I’ve shared in the past to help explain it far more eloquently.

I also discovered that you can turn on accessibility features on Twitter, which gives you the ability to add alt text to your images.

Use captions and subtitles where possible.

I’ve worked on lots of videos, and had managed to push to the back of my conscience that most did not include any sort of transcript.

I discovered some of the joys of Youtube’s Closed Caption service, when reviewing Paul Zimmerman’s accessibility keynote (where I first heard a screen reader in action, albeit slowed down) from the 2016 Intranet Now conference. (I should also point out that I have been disappointed in Vimeo’s apparent lack of auto-captioning service).

There’s a great piece that explains more about how to add closed captions on Youtube. You’ll have more fun correcting variations on it than you’d think – thanks to Oli Loughran for the heads up on that. I discovered that the Google audio closed-caption reader particularly struggled to understand the automated voice of the screen reader, creating its own AI-generated found poem.

Closed Captions vs Screenreader:

Following plastics and secondly tactics

Expect notifications ship at that

Transactions that publicly shipshape.

It’s not somebody else’s problem

Don’t assume it’s an SEP* – ultimately, it’s up to all of use to make our content as accessible as possible, and ask awkward questions of technology suppliers to make sure they have this covered.

I’d like to think I’m improving in how I make content more accessible and love helping organisations improve the way they communicate. If you’re interested in finding out more, there are a number of accessibility resources and blogs on Invotra’s website.  

*SEP = Somebody Else’s Problem.

This article was originally published here and was reposted with permission.

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