Looking to improve your online content? Want to engage more people?
When creating online content, it’s important to think about the end user, the viewer, your audience, but also other groups that may require accessible features to engage with your content.
There are lots of programs, apps, and functions within websites and social media platforms that can help with accessibility. With a little assistance, a few steps and changes and commitment, it’s possible to make accessibility a selling point for your channel/website.
Here are some things to consider…
For D/deaf people, communication is one of the biggest challenges they can face – the main factor being audio and speech. Deafness varies from mild loss to profound or complete loss. D/deaf people communicate in a variety of ways, some use Sign Language, others use speech and lipreading, and some use a mixture, or other methods.
For some British Sign Language (BSL) users, English isn’t their first language as BSL follows a different grammatical structure. There are qualified British Sign Language interpreters and translators to assist with communication.
For others, they may find complex words and vocabulary of the English language difficult to grasp. It’s important to bear all these factors in mind when creating content.
Do your Research
Before deciding on your accessibility plan, it’s important to do your research into each element to make sure you understand it’s purpose, how it works and how to get the best out of each method. Be proactive, think outside the box, and always be mindful and conscientious about what you produce.
Focus on the end user
When making your content accessible for end users, think about it from their perspective. Why not reach out to a focus group, with a variety of people from that group. Find out what would help them, what they struggle to access, and how you can help them. Listening is a really important tool.
Perhaps you can feature D/deaf people in your channel/on your website, tell their story and it inspires people and may encourage others to follow in your footsteps.
If you find many comments or queries about a particular element of your channel or service being inaccessible… action it – find out why this is, and how it can be changed/improved. It’s always best to deal with it rather than brushing it under the carpet.
Provide multiple contact options
Most organisations/services are inaccessible from the point that their end user cannot get in touch with them, or if the process isn’t made easy, or perhaps if they have to rely on another individual to help them, resulting in losing their independence.
Voice phone is the most common contact method used, but for D/deaf people it’s an audio function that they may not be able to access as they cannot see or hear the speaker.
Here are some other contact methods you can consider:
- Text SMS
- Live chat
- Text relay
- Sign Language video relay
- Social media platforms & direct messaging
The more contact options the better, it gives people choice to use their preferred method.
If you’re concerned about security, or misuse of contact methods, please look into it and research how you can make it as secure as possible or if there’s a way of offering D/deaf people to reach out to you for that accessible contact method.
Please refrain from using security/or lack of staffing/or costs as a reason for not having other contact methods.
There are laws in place, for example The Equality Act which states ‘Some people or organisations must take positive steps to remove the barriers you face because of your disability. This is to ensure you receive the same services, as far as this is possible, as someone who’s not disabled. The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.’
Subtitle your videos
Subtitling or adding closed captions to video content helps to increase viewing figures and engagement with social media posts and SEO on your website. Even social media platforms these days can mute videos, so unless people click for sound, they won’t engage with it. The solution = closed captions/subtitles.
The main reason for subtitles is to provide access to D/deaf people – putting audio into words. It enables them to understand what is being said and having full access to the clip.
Please make sure the subtitles are verbatim (word for word), that they follow the timing of the audio, and are not auto-generated captions which often have spelling mistakes, so please check for accuracy.
YouTube and Facebook have a captioning feature which allows you to add subtitles to videos. There are also websites like VEED, Rev, or there are tons of subtitling apps that you can use. Recommendations are: MixCaptions, Clipomatic, InShot, VideoSubtitle, or the type text button in Instagram/Facebook stories.
Or provide a Transcript
If you can’t subtitle your videos, for some reason, or if it’s too time consuming, please provide a transcript with the post/on the webpage or attach a text document with the video. Anything is better than nothing!
It’s not just video to bear in mind. Consider live streams/podcasts/audio clips which all benefit with subtitles/transcripts.
British Sign Language Translations
As well as subtitles, consider using a qualified British Sign Language interpreter to make video translations. This makes it accessible to Deaf Sign Language users as English follows a different grammatical structure to BSL.
Please ensure they have a qualification, and are recognised professionals, and not someone who knows a little Sign Language. It’s important that the accurate information is conveyed.
Consider BSL translations for
- Web page text
- Information about services/news/important key points
- Anything that is worth knowing about!
Cut the jargon
When writing content, please bear in mind jargon/complex terminology and the complexities of the English language. It can be widely used in the world, especially within organisations.
For best practises, I advise reading through content and thinking about the following:
- Is it to the point? Is it going off-topic?
- How can I simplify this?
- Can bullet points be used instead of paragraphs?
- Are there complex words – is there a simpler word to use?
- Is there anything that needs explaining more clearly?
- Can we use visual elements i.e. pictures which have a relation to the topic?
- Can it be broken down into sub-headings/sub-sections?
Sometimes re-writing it can help, listing the main aims and points at the start, and re-evaluating it. Ask someone else for their views too.
The English language is beautiful and depending on the context as to when it can be used to its full potential.
The thing to be mindful of is if someone views a page of text – is it guaranteed they’ll read every word? And if not, how can it be viewed better?
Accessible for all… and spread the word!
Some of these tips above are not only beneficial for D/deaf people but for other disabilities and individuals too.
If you wish to expand even more – consider researching accessibility for Deafblind, blind, visually impaired, autism, learning difficulties and so on. The more the better and puts your organisation/channel/website in a positive, forward-thinking light.
Please spread the word about accessibility. Talk about the importance of it, and why you are doing it. Encourage others to subtitle their videos, to get BSL interpretations, to revisit their accessibility plan. It all helps to make the world a more understanding place.
Best of luck, and if ever in doubt, please ask someone!