We have all been living a lot in our digital space and we think a lot about accessibility in our physical world, but do we even think about what we are doing to make it accessible for all digitally?
What is digital accessibility? Kelly Hermann, University of Phoenix VP accessibility, equity and inclusion says that is important to keep in mind that we no longer live in a world where we use paper so the majority of what we write and send is digital. So, whether it is on a computer, sending text messages on our phones, or even posting on social media, we are always connected to our devices. Kelly Hermann says digital accessibility means that those with a disability have equal access to that information and the same opportunity to produce and share content as the rest of us and businesses and educators need to ensure they are offering the proper software tools and formatting their content to remove barriers for individuals with disabilities.
There was a 2021 online accessibility survey with key findings there. Kelly explains a little of it for us. She says they wanted to dive in a little deeper with Harris poll to find out how Americans were experiencing disability and what they thought about disability. They found that one in three Americans say they either have or had a chronic medical condition or a disability and what was really interesting to them was that 82% of their respondents see disability as an aspect of diversity and that belief was consistent regardless of whether or not the person themselves had a disability. Kelly says what is interesting about that is we tend to talk about disability in medical terms and we talk about diagnosis and what might be wrong with a person; how they may be able to fix that and treat that condition and really what this is telling us is that for disability it is another difference. It’s the same as we consider different ethnicities, religious beliefs, genders, and racial backgrounds. She says we look at this as another way in which we can celebrate differences among us.
Kelly says it is important for companies and organizations to remember that accessibilities is a journey, it is not a destination and so the first step is to take stock of your digital content and see where you have things that are accessible and are used and where you have some opportunities to make some improvements. She goes on to say there are three things that both viewers and organizations can do immediately to help improve the accessibility of their content.
First, be careful with your use of color in text. Colors should not be the only way that you communicate meaning and there should be enough contrast between the color of the text and background to make sure it can read easily.
Second when you are working with images within your content, don’t just include a caption. Go into the image properties and add an alternative text description. That is a way that you use words to describe what is in the image so that someone who can’t see it and using assistive technology will have it read out loud to them so they can perceive why you included that image in your content.
Lastly, when you looking at hyperlinks and are sharing hyperlinks don’t use a shortcut like click here make your hyperlinks descriptive where you use a keyword to tell the person who is listening to that hyperlink where that browser is going to take them so they know which website they are opening up as they activate it.