Making content accessible

woman using ipad and speaking on phone

Written by Sarah Richards, Founder, Content Design London

Accessible content is important. There are around 14 million disabled people in the UK. This number doesn’t include temporary or undiagnosed disabilities. These people are on the internet, they have rights and they are not being served by many public and private institutions. So how can we open up our content and make it more accessible?

Hiding content in videos

A few years ago, everyone wanted an app whether it would be useful to the audience or not  (some still do). The same is true for videos. We see organisations throwing thousands of pounds at videos with only a vanity metric attached: traffic numbers.

Many organisations don’t have a strong content strategy that covers their digital products and services. Sites grow ‘organically’.  They want to be engaging. Some of them want to go viral. And so we see a lot of content being published that doesn’t actually serve the audience or the organisation.

Then there is accessibility. In this scramble to publish everything that an organisation does, many will think accessibility is just screen readers for blind people.

Without a strong content strategy covering all your channels, what success and value is, who your audience really is and what you actually want in return for your money, you are missing out on millions.

Videos: when they work

In some instances, videos are great. For example, if you want to show an exercise routine. It’s not impossible but videos may convey more than the written word – if the audience can access it.

If you work at a university, we know international students may not be able to visit the campus before applying so video tours are very popular.

If your service is complex or may be difficult for some, a walk-through video may help allay fears. We’ve seen profoundly deaf participants and those with anxiety feeling much better when they saw a video showing them an interview process they would go through to apply for a benefit.

So there are many reasons to use videos. If they are accessible and there for a reason.

Accessibility makes your content usable

Videos: captions and transcripts

Adding captions and transcripts to video is not only for deaf people but for those who have hearing impairments, including not having headphones while traveling on the bus. You need to have transcripts so that:

  • Search engines can find the content,
  • People who prefer to read, can (many can read far faster than a video will get to the point so prefer to skim and get the information they want),
  • Those who can’t hear aren’t excluded

However, that’s only if your audience can read.

There is a view that all deaf people can read perfectly. Why? Reading is not genetic. 7.1 million people in the UK have poor literacy skills.

Consider having a BSL translator. It’s not going to stop anyone who doesn’t need translation and you may gain another audience. The British Deaf Association reported 151,000 people use BSL in the UK, 87,000 of those are deaf. That’s a lot of people to ignore.

Videos and money

When considering your content, we’d encourage you to look at hidden access needs as well as those that are very visible. For example, poverty is not often seen as an access need. But consider your video promotion. Those on a low income or below the poverty line will have very limited, if any, access to data. Hiding content in data-hungry videos won’t help you or them.

Hidden costs

Many will see having a video is just work. Put it on someone’s workload and it is done. But have you actually worked out what it is costing you? Not only in money, but what your team are not doing because a video, with no *real* value for the organisation is the priority?

The solution

The solution to all this is to create properly researched user journey maps, content designed to user needs with accessibility, usability and inclusivity in mind.  You will understand what your audience needs from you, when, what the pain points are, and the ways to get to your audience most efficiently. Including if you need videos or another format would actually get you to your goal faster.

You would then feed that information into the strong content strategy that can be rolled out to the rest of your content.

If you don’t have a strong content strategy that shows success, value, governance, workflow and your overall goals, we’ve published an example content strategy that may help.

Have a good content strategy and you will know exactly what videos would give you, and what they may be taking away.


Note: public sector websites need to be accessible. It’s the law.


More thought leadership

Join Digital Leaders

By submitting your contact information, you agree that Digital Leaders may contact you regarding relevant content and events.
Analytics by GoSquared