Charity Digital – Topics – How to make digital communications accessible

Annabel Mulliner represents Small group of seeds, which aims to help organizations thrive through marketing, public relations and social media services.

Interacting with digital communications is something we can all take for granted. The online world is a big part of our lives, with the average adult spending up to 6.4 hours on the Internet every day. But reading an email or scrolling through Twitter is not something that all internet users can do so easily.

Things like assistive technology (AT) software can improve access to digital communications for people with visual impairments or learning disabilities. And there are steps that can be taken on an organization’s side to make digital communications accessible. With the common goal of doing good, all charities should seek to lead the way in accessible digital communications.

Write alt text for images

Wherever you use images in your communications, you should also use alt text. The alt text can be read by the AT software, letting the user know what an image is and what it looks like.

All mainstream social media platforms have alt text features. Some, like Facebook, even automatically generate alt text. But the user-generated alt text will always be more accurate than the automatically generated one.

Website CMS systems like WordPress usually also have alt text functions. It takes thirty seconds to add alt text to an image and it can make all the difference to a visually impaired user experience.

Use multimedia

Using multimedia to supplement plain text can improve both engagement and accessibility. Audio, video, and infographics can help with accessible communications. It can be as simple as providing audio versions of emails and blog posts.

On average, users keep 95% of a video message versus 10% of a text message. It shows the power of multimedia to engage all users, not just people with disabilities.

In addition to improving accessibility, infographics and video content can be extremely beneficial in your charity’s marketing strategy. In fact, videos generate up to 1200% more shares than image and text content combined.

Make sure your designs are accessible

Do your website and social networks use contrasting colors and readable fonts?

While an eye-catching and impressive design may be your top priority, designs should be visually accessible and easy to use.

You may consider adding a tool to your website that allows users to change font sizes or background colors to suit individual needs. We recommend that you work with a web design agency who understands how to develop inclusive and accessible websites.

When creating infographic social media posts, present the information in a logical way. Order content in a list instead of a less linear format, for example, which will help people with learning disabilities like dyslexia follow your post.

Use subtitles for videos

Of course, multimedia can be a double-edged sword, as the specific needs of each individual mean that they will be increasingly less able to engage with different types of content.

If you opt for video content, use captions to make sure people with hearing loss can participate.

Many hearing-impaired users watch videos in silent mode, which means that videos with captions receive a lot more engagement than those with videos without captions.

Use capitals in hashtags

It may sound minor, but do not use capitals in hashtags means that the AT software will not be able to read your hashtags correctly. This is because the AT software is unable to distinguish the beginning and the end of each word.

Hashtags without a capital letter can also lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. Take Susan Boyle’s hashtag #susanalbumparty, for example. If only his publicity team had capitalized like #SusanAlbumParty, they could have avoided an outrageous misunderstanding.

Hashtags can play a vital role in social media communications. For example, they can be used to create fundraising challenges or encourage activism. By capitalizing on your hashtags, you will ensure maximum engagement with your campaigns.

Maintain a clear writing style

Accessibility doesn’t start and end with the way information is presented on a page, because you also need to make sure that your communications are written in an accessible and clear voice. Using simple English and avoiding jargon is not only more user-friendly, it can be much more engaging.

In fact, readability is so important that it is factored into Google search engine rankings. Indeed, readability is an integral part of the user experience. Take this into account when writing copy, whether through email, blog post, or social media.

Create accessibility guidelines

Make accessibility a key consideration in your brand guidelines, to ensure consistency and demonstrate your long-term commitment to accessibility. This should allow your social media team to follow practices such as those outlined above and ensure that any rebranding is designed with accessibility in mind.

But more than that, you should strive to stay abreast of the latest developments in accessible communications. Keep up to date with new social media updates and new software to make sure you don’t miss out on new opportunities to improve accessibility.

Most importantly, listen to your disabled beneficiaries and donors. Take suggestions and comments into account. Make it a company policy that you will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to making your charity’s digital communications accessible – it would take an entire book. But these simple and effective steps will get you in the right direction towards inclusiveness.

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