Know what digital accessibility is and learn how to produce accessible content

Even with 45 million people with disabilities in Brazil, it is estimated that only 2% of websites in the country are concerned with digital accessibility

Digital accessibility is the process of making digital products, such as websites, texts and applications, accessible to everyone, regardless of their deficiencies or limitations.

Have you ever stopped to think about how a blind person consumes the content you publish on your company’s blog? Or how does a deaf person who communicates using Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) understand the video you posted on your YouTube channel?

If your business has an internet presence, but you’ve never thought about it, maybe it’s time to think about digital accessibility. In this article by Blue World City, understand what it is, what the benefits are and how to adapt your websites and their contents so that they can be accessed by all people. Follow up!

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility consists in eliminating barriers to internet browsing. This difficulty mainly affects people with disabilities and other limitations, who encounter obstacles that may not only make it more difficult but also make access to websites, content and applications impossible.

The theme is so relevant that there is even a day dedicated to raising awareness. It is the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), created in 2012 and celebrated every third Thursday of May.

The date was inspired by a blog post by developer Joe Devon, which called attention to the lack of information on digital accessibility. The goal is to encourage professionals to strive to make digital products more accessible for people with disabilities.

After almost 10 years since the creation of the date, however, the numbers show that there is still a long way to go: according to a survey carried out by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium, international consortium responsible for standardizing the World Wide Web), for example, only 2% of Brazilian sites are accessible.

This lack of accessibility among Brazilian websites, however, is not due to lack of demand. In the country alone, it is estimated that the number of people with disabilities exceeds 45 million, according to the IBGE. Worldwide, this audience is 1 billion, according to data from the World Health Organization. Furthermore, creating accessible digital environments is not a nightmare for skilled professionals either.

Why are we advancing slowly in this area?

This happens because, before crossing the barriers of digital accessibility, there is a much bigger one, which does not have to do with technology and information, it is invisible and does not belong to the digital world: the barrier of mentality.

We still have difficulty in promoting accessibility because we bump into an exclusive attitude, one that limits us to developing websites and creating digital content limited to a single standard of person, without functional and sensory diversity.

Often, those who work with Digital Marketing (content producers, designers, developers) do not consider this large portion of the population as a persona in their projects.

Why invest in digital accessibility?

Stereotypes and prejudices are cultural and don’t change overnight. For a long time, diversity and inclusion were devalued, and this change of scenery is still ongoing. In this process, information is a great ally.

In 2019, 69% of respondents to the UK Click-Away Pound survey said they abandoned websites due to accessibility barriers encountered. In addition, 86% said they would spend more on an online store if it were accessible.

Data like this show that it is not just this audience of millions of people who wins when investing in digital accessibility. This is also a way for your company to take its content, products and services to everyone, differentiating itself from the majority.

How to create accessible content? 5 tips to use in your business

At this point you may be asking yourself: “but how can I create accessible content for my company?” Below, we’ll share some good practices in accessible content and design that we can adopt in our daily lives.

1. Understand what assistive technologies are

In practice, depending on the type of limitation they have, people use different assistive technologies to perform tasks. They range from the simplest to the most complex in your daily life, including in the digital world.

Blind, for example, browse through screen reader software, which “narrates” the page’s content for them. Deaf people, who use Libras as their first language, generally have difficulty understanding Portuguese. People with severe motor limitations, such as quadriplegics, navigate by mouth, eyes or voice commands.

It is important to take these assistive technologies into account when producing your content.

2. Create cross-platform, multi-sensory content

The more senses, the more accessible. To create increasingly inclusive content, we need to consider that people access information through different sensory channels, whether because of sensory impairment (such as visual and hearing) or because of a situation that causes sensory impairment (such as a cyclist who have limited vision or a person at a concert with loud music has limited hearing).

To meet the needs of these different audiences and make communication more immersive, multisensory communication is a great solution. Videos with subtitles, texts with audio and images with descriptions are some examples of combinations. If it is possible to use more than one of these platforms combined, the content becomes even more inclusive!

Here on the blog, for example, you can find several texts with audio, including a post about how we use narrated content to improve engagement with the audience! This is an accessibility strategy that has several benefits, such as improving SEO, generating more Leads, helping those with reading difficulties and humanizing digital communication.

3. Use subtitles in your videos

If you are not in the habit of subtitles your videos, in addition to creating barriers for deaf or deaf people to have access (and I’m not just talking about people with hearing impairments, but also your grandmother who turns the TV on to maximum), you also stop communicating with all the people who watch videos on social networks without audio. In 2016, Facebook reported that 85% of its users had this habit.

How about adding a description to the subtitles? That way, those who are just viewing the images know that music is playing or that someone is very angry.

4. Include image descriptions

In order for people who are blind and have low vision to access information on the web, they use screen readers. It is an assistive technology that converts text into synthesized speech, allowing the user to hear rather than see. However, for this technology to work, it depends on us doing our part.

Images with information, that is, photos, graphics, organization charts, illustrations, images that replace buttons or links, graphics, must contain an objective and impartial description through the ALT attribute. On social networks, alternative text, as the image description feature is called, can also be inserted by users when posting images.

Many profiles use the hashtag #PraCegoVer before the description in the post captions to warn about the invisibility of blind people on social networks. The action is a provocation about who is really blind: the person who has a visual impairment or users unable to see diversity?

See an example below, in the RD Sum video, a project for inclusion by Resultados Digitais, which has an audio description and an interpreter of pounds:

5. Structure the texts in an accessible way

The organization of the structure and flow of information in the text directly impacts people with visual impairments who depend on screen readers, people with intellectual disabilities and also those who surf via mobile. Simple formatting choices are able to make information accessible to these audiences:

Prioritize the basics

Serif fonts can be stylish and give an artistic tone to the text, but they are difficult for most people with low vision and situational visual impairments to read, such as reading in a very sunny environment. Like serifs, cursive and fancy fonts are not a good choice either, even for those with vision problems (those with astigmatism should share the same pain).

When we think of simplifying text to make it more accessible, we also mean semantic structure and grammatical construction. Very long sentences, paragraphs with many lines, use of passive voice and figures of speech are barriers to understanding the content for many people. Keep in mind: simple is better.

Description: image with blurry letters, simulating the vision of a person with astigmatism.

Align texts to the left

Many people with intellectual disabilities have difficulty reading through justified blocks of text due to uneven spaces between words. According to UX principles, prioritizing left-justified text is a way to ensure the readability of the content, by making it easier to see for as many users as possible.

Always opt for contrast and visibility

Choosing the right colors for text, images, icons and backgrounds is essential to ensure content accessibility. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the recommendation is that the contrast ratio is at least 4.5:1 for normal text. There are numerous free contrast testers that can help you with this job.

Choosing the right colors means choosing colors visible to everyone. Not everyone can perceive and distinguish all colors, as is the case for people with color blindness, a vision disorder that interferes with color perception, especially red and green and, less frequently, blue and yellow.

Another essential accessibility factor for this audience is the combination of different elements: shapes, icons and colors to represent information. That is, never restrict information to color, like using green to signal something positive and red to signal something negative.

Opera summary: don’t rely on a color to convey important information and always bet on a good contrast between colors and elements.

Image description: montage with 2 images, on the left side, several colored fruits, on the right side, the same fruits in neutral colors and with little contrast. Created by Juliana Fernandes.

Create accessible links

It is common for many people to browse the web using the mouse, but not for everyone: people with motor problems and users with visual impairments, who use screen readers, navigate with the TAB key on the keyboard through the active elements of a page.

One of these elements is the link, a data reference widely used in SEO strategies and which can be accessed by screen readers, as long as it is accessible. And how to make a link with accessibility?

It needs to be clear, descriptive and indicates the content of your destination. Ideally, use understandable expressions even out of context, for example: “Go to the site (name of the site)”, “Learn more on the portal (name of the portal)” or the title of the content itself, such as “Marketing Tools Kit Content”.

Did you like these tips on digital accessibility? How about starting to put them into practice in your company to create a more inclusive digital experience for everyone?