Many members of the ATE Community are aware of the importance of creating accessible content, but how can you put that knowledge to use when promoting your project or center's work? Here are some quick tips and tools to optimize your web presence, social media content, and presentation materials for accessibility:
Format materials with accessibility in mind from the start.
Whether you are writing web content, making presentation slides, or creating an accessible PDF, consider the clarity and navigability of your outreach materials right from the start. To ensure that your written content is understandable to all, make sure text gets your point across in a concise way that is comprehensible to a general audience. Avoid using acronyms or jargon, unless you are writing for a particular audience who has familiarity with these terms.
Design elements can also aid in getting information across. When formatting text, avoid creating uneven spaces between letters. Be sure to choose fonts that are easily legible on screens, such as sans serif fonts, which are easier to read at both small and large sizes. When creating hyperlinks, use meaningful text that describes the content, rather than general phrasing like “click here.” Format web pages with a defined and consistent visual hierarchy, so that information is grouped in logical ways that visually cue your reader on the relationships between content and the order of importance. In addition to layout cues, add headings using standard HTML to make navigating your site easier for those using screen readers.
Many softwares and web platforms offer tools that aid in accessibility. For example, Microsoft PowerPoint offers existing presentation templates for creating navigable slides. Presenters can also set slide content order, so that audience members using screen readers can move through the slide in the intended progression. This video tutorial provides a helpful overview of how to design presentations with accessibility in mind.
Make visual and audio elements understandable for a broad audience.
Images and video contain a wealth of information that can be inaccessible to visually impaired or hearing impared or audiences. One strategy is adding alternative text, or "alt text" for short. Alt text captures what is conveyed by images in words, to make the content and meaning of images accessible to visually impaired audiences who are using screen readers. Twitter’s page on alt text, Facebook’s guide to adding alt text, and LinkedIn's alt text resource all offer assistance. Some social media scheduling platforms such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite have also added alt text features.
Another way to make visual elements in general more accessible is by selecting color combinations that provide high contrast, which are much easier to perceive. Ideally, large text (18-point or 14-point bold font) and images will have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For smaller elements, a contrast ratio of 7:1 is desirable.
Auditory aspects of your outreach materials should also be optimized for accessibility. An easy way to do so for videos is adding closed captioning and descriptive language. Users can directly add captions to videos with assistance from Facebook's captions guide and LinkedIn's help page on captions. While YouTube does offer automatic captioning, those captions may not be accurate, so it is important to manually edit or add correct captions that include descriptions of other important audio (e.g. applause). Adding descriptive language that captures visual elements' meaning will make video content even more broadly accessible. To learn more about making videos accessible by design, check out this tip sheet from AccessATE.
Test your outreach materials for accessibility regularly.
Before finalizing your outreach materials, always conduct tests to verify compliance with accessibility principles. There are many tests your outreach team can perform, including: ensuring that every image has alternative text describing its contents, checking that website and document heading hierarchies are meaningful and properly formatted, and that your website content can be functionally accessed using only a keyboard.
Drawing on accessibility testing tools is a great way to maximize content reach without over-burdening your outreach team. Color contrast can be reviewed using one of many automated accessibility checkers, such as WebAIM’s WAVE, axe, and Chrome Lighthouse. Slide creation platforms like PowerPoint often include accessibility checking tools that aid in this. There are also many informative sites that curate lists of helpful tools, such as this helpful set of testing resources from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative.
To learn more about designing outreach materials with universal access in mind, refer to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the Universal Design for Learning resources provided by CAST, and the many accessibility resources and guides offered by AccessATE.