Accessible Digital Marketing Strategies for Digital Inclusion
The digital environment is a big part of everyone’s lives in today's world. Our days are inundated with status updates, breaking news alerts, memes, tweets, videos, and images. Most of our lives and livelihoods are dependent on them.
Despite the existence of web accessibility standards, a large portion of the internet remains inaccessible to visually impaired people. Although, the internet has made life easier, for the most part, digital accessibility may have alienated people with disabilities more.
This digital gap is due to a lack of awareness about accessible online design issues by web developers, digital marketing executives, organizations, and institutions that buy/provide web-based products and services.
Most accessible solutions fail to market to people with disabilities. When you make your marketing inclusive, you increase your audience and open up a previously untapped pool of potential customers to your products and services.
In the UK, there are at least one in five people are visually impaired or with long-term disability. That’s where 20% of your potential audience is. You can’t afford—ethically or in business terms—to neglect accessibility online.
Despite the efforts of social media giants, more than 70% of websites and social media accounts remain inaccessible. Companies and agencies cannot afford to ignore this population in consumer marketing.
So how can you make your marketing accessible?
Here are some tips that I have learned over a year from practice.
- Use of strong alt text descriptions to Optimize the images
Non-text online content such as images, infographics, and graphics can use alternative text (alt-text) as a textual equivalent. Complete alt-text descriptions make the internet more accessible to the visually impaired. When a screen reader sees images from the website, it reads the alt text aloud to the user, allowing them to comprehend the image's content and/or function. Apart from accessibility, alt text enhances SEO rankings by providing additional information about the content on particular web pages to search engines like Google and Bing etc... The more information their web crawlers can read and analyze, the higher your chances of ranking in relevant SERPs (search engine result pages).
Here are some pointers on how to write a nice alt text description:
- Attempt to be more precise in presenting the image's content and function.
- Avoid using more than a few necessary words.
- Avoid redundancies and don't repeat what's already been said in the surrounding text.
- In your alt text description, look for phrases like "picture of..." or "graphic of..." and attempt to avoid them.
- If the image simply contains text, the alt text can be the text within the image.
- Include the alt text even if the image is functional, for example, if the image provides a link to something else.
How to add alt text?
Auto alt-text may not work always, delicacies like crispy, round Brussels sprouts in a hearty bowl are simply alternated with generic terms like "food". Each social networking platform, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, has different lengths for alt-text.
It is a good practice to copy your alt text in the caption and title it as ‘ image description’. This helps people whose screen readers don't read images or people who don't use screen readers.
- Optimize and create friendly image titles, URLs, and file names.
Search engines and screen readers will use the file name to figure out what the image is and whether it is relevant. Before uploading to your CMS, make sure the file name is simple and descriptive of the subject matter, and use it as an opportunity to include target keywords if necessary.
Which of the following file names do you believe is more understandable?
The same principle applies to picture titles and URLs. Make an effort to not only include them but to write good ones that are logical and adequately describe the page/image.
- For photos or media, use schema markup data.
Search engines like Bing, Google, and others employ Schema Markup data to give us better search results. It could be a sort of HTML code or structured data markup; it gives search engines more context and improves the knowledge pane, which can be read out loud.
The Schema is used by Bing and other prominent search engines to mark up just about everything. Search engines can better interpret the contents of a webpage by using structured data markups, which can change how they present search results.
- Apply the same concepts to movies, PowerPoints, and PDFs.
As the popularity of video marketing grows, consider the following accessibility tips to make it more accessible to the visually impaired:
- Make correct video transcripts and post them on the web page.
- Use both open and closed subtitles for video material to increase engagement. It's worth noting that search engines can read the text tile for closed captions.
Tips for PowerPoint presentations and PDF documents include:
- Create a search-friendly file name and optimize your titles with accurate keywords, just as you would with photos.
- Within the document or PowerPoint, add alt-tags for images and charts.
- Fill up the description area; this will be used as the meta description for search results.
- In the author field, write your company's name.
- There are additional metadata fields in Adobe Acrobat; make sure to fill them out.
- Incorporate internal connections to the document as well as backlinks with your goal keywords.
- Hashtags in camel case
Always capitalize the first letter of each term to make your hashtags more accessible. The camel case structure allows screen readers to read the words separately rather than as a long string of jumbled words.
- Color contrast
For color-blind online users, color contrast is critical. The W3C recommends a contrast of 4.5 to 1 between the color of the text and the color of the backdrop. Problematic color combos to avoid include red and green, blue and purple, green and grey, green and brown, green and blue, blue and grey, and green and black.
color-safe.co is a tool that helps you generate accessible color palettes based on the WCAG Guidelines for text and background contrast ratio.
- Grant keyboard shortcuts
It is easier to implement keyboard navigation (via shortcuts, and instructions) than mouse navigation for those with visual impairments because they will not have to follow the cursor of the mouse on the screen, an activity that needs a lot of focus for their condition.
Furthermore, because keyboard use while navigating has increased in recent years, this strategy will benefit not only this group of people but all users.
- Use of heading in organizing the content
I hear a lot about SEO on Web pages and how crucial headers are for text structure. But these headings have a dual purpose: they will assist the user in scanning the page for the most important information while also assisting the computer in skimming a page with a screen reader.
What skimming a page imply is to go from heading to heading, reading only the most important information offered in that section.
- No Audio or Video that Plays Automatically
People using screen readers will have to listen to it in addition to the screen readers if your website or blog has video or audio that starts automatically.
This can be difficult. It can also cause issues for persons who have other types of disability. While using automatically playing video and audio on your website may look and sound nice, it might make navigation difficult.
If you wish to use video or music on your website, instead of having it play automatically, give customers the choice to start it by clicking a button.
- Have an Audio Option for Captcha Verification?
Screen readers are unable to read visuals and are frequently difficult to see for people with visual impairments. Having an audio option for captcha verification allows people an alternative while still ensuring the security of your website.
- Label Every Button and Link
If you label your blog/links websites and buttons to specify exactly what they are, such as ‘search' or 'home,' visually impaired people will be able to figure out what they are. They can do this by using magnification software or having a screen reader read the label aloud to them.
Because buttons and links are labeled, visually challenged people don't have to press buttons they don't understand, which can be quite dangerous, especially if it leads to a separate page.
- Label Comment Forms
If you wish anyone to be able to leave a comment on your blog/website, make sure all of the comment forms are labeled. This is because words like 'radio button' and 'edit field' are never read by screen readers.
A better approach is to double-check that all boxes are labeled correctly, like 'comment,' ‘name.’, 'email address,' etc…