Work & Wellbeing

6 easy ways to make comms more accessible to people with a disability

By Chloe Johnson | writer and editor

December 6, 2021 | 7 min read

There are many ways brands can be more accessible without having to completely overhaul their communications strategy, writes Conscious Being editor Chloe Johnson as part of The Drum’s Marketing and the Marginalized Deep Dive.

Inclusive communication has become a hot topic in the marketing world. However, with so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to turn.

Inclusivity can require big spending projects such as architectural changes, but it can start off far simpler. With 15% of the world’s population having a disability, this also increases significantly when accounting for temporary or situational disabilities, and non-inclusive content pushes consumers away from engaging in brands if they feel excluded from the content.

Inclusivity

15% of the world’s population have a disability, but non-inclusive content can push consumers away

Using inclusive comms can open far more doors with your communication strategy than it closes, and this guide will take you through six easy steps that can guide you toward making your communications strategy more accessible.

Correct terminology

Using the correct terminology is a simple way you can cater for disabled people. Although there is no one correct way to refer to disabled people, there is research out there to base your strategy on.

Make sure to do your research on what constitutes ableist terminology, stick with gender-neutral pronouns and add a range of diverse voices into your articles, social media posts and emojis. Make sure that you’re keeping on top of what is new to make sure you’re not having a limited point of view in your communications. The best way you can do this is to listen to disabled people’s voices – get them on your comms team and see what they think. What do they think about what you’re doing? Is it offensive, or is it working? You might make some great connections.

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Camel case

Camel case is when you capitalize the first letter of each word to make hashtags more legible to screen readers, as often they can mess up the pronunciation of hashtags. This also helps avoid PR fails for hashtags as capitalization can help them become clearer, as well as helping those with cognitive issues or processing difficulties.

Camel case can also be combined with other social media accessibility tools such as putting hashtags and mentions at the end, avoiding special characters and overusing caps, which all make everything much simpler to navigate.

Image descriptions and alt text

Image descriptions and alt text can help more people access your visual content. Alt text tells people what is in an image, such as text or bare essential details. If an image fails to load because of connection or otherwise, alt text will display in its place. It will also help search engines determine ratings.

Image descriptions will give more details than alt text, however, and allow someone to learn more about what is in an image than is in an alt text. Screen readers may use both the alt text and image descriptions, depending on the settings, and they can both provide essential information such as placement of objects in image, text, links, image style, colors and names of people. They’re an important tool to make your content easier to access for all.

Make text accessible

Making sure comms is accessible means that you need to recognize what you’re currently doing to exclude disabled people now and continue to grow from it. Learning from your followers, and presenting information in the clearest possible way, can be a great way of engaging with your audience that is not only accessible but is useful as a marketing tool to get straight to the point.

Subtitles

Captions are a great way to add to any video content you’re using, and they are essential for people who are deaf or hard of hearing – and extremely useful for a variety of other people.

Not only will captions make your video far more accessible, but they will also make them more far-reaching, as more people can engage with them in environments where they can’t necessarily have their sound on, or loud, or have the concentration span to pay attention without captions.

Welcome and embrace feedback

This is perhaps the most important way you can make your comms more accessible. Listening to feedback from disabled individuals and customers is a sure-fire way of catering to your disabled audience. If you don’t think you have a disabled audience, think about why that might be and how you can change that.

Charli Clement, an activist, writer and speaker, agrees that it is easier than people think to make comms accessible to a wider audience. “Inclusivity of disabled individuals in campaigns is much easier than people think. For me, I need contrasting colors – I prefer dark text on a light background, and I need websites or ads not to be overcrowded with lots of colours or images. Camel case also helps more people than you’d think – it’s helpful for screen reader users so hashtags can be read out easily, but also for those of us with processing issues who might struggle to see how the words break up.”

Ultimately, it’s clear that there are a variety of ways that you can make your work more accessible without having to do anything drastic to overhaul your communications strategy – it can be easier than you think to engage with disabled people, and in the 21st century, and so many resources available, there really isn’t an excuse not to jump in with both feet.

Chloe Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of Conscious Being, a magazine by and for disabled women and non-binary people.

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