How to Create Accessible Content More Easily
Web accessibility heavily relies on developers and designers. They are responsible for building code and specific design patterns to make a website accessible for people with disabilities.
Another way to enhance a site's accessibility is through content. Creating accessible content is paramount when it comes to making a website accessible to screen reader users or visitors that use assistive technologies.
Content editors can give a piece of writing accessibility by:
- writing relevant, concise, descriptive text links
- creating easily scannable headings
- adding alternative texts to every non-text element of the content
- writing meaningful copy
Regardless of the scope of your website, as a content editor, your mission is to create and optimize every piece of writing on your site with accessibility in mind. This also means putting yourself into the shoes of your audience and thinking from their perspective. You should ask yourself: What do I need in order to have full access to this website? Which features and website tools can help visitors interact with this website more conveniently?
If you use empathy to answer these questions, you'll get closer to understanding your audience. Only then will you be on the right path to building accessible content on your website.
How do you define accessible content?
Web content accessibility doesn't just include people with disabilities. It also refers to content that can be easily understood and interacted with by smartphone users, older people, persons with low literacy, or those who have low English skills.
According to the WCAG 2.0 standards, web content is considered accessible if it's:
- Perceivable. Website users should easily perceive any piece of content that is presented on the site.
- Operable. When structured, a site's content should focus on operability.
- Understandable. Accessible content is comprehensive, concise, and includes meaningful structural elements.
- Robust. A piece of content is considered robust when it can be easily scanned and interpreted by assistive technologies.
How to create accessible content
1. Use specific link texts.
And try to avoid link text like "Click here" as they're not suitable in terms of accessibility. Meaningful link texts convey and clearly describe what the URL is about, making it easier for people who use screen readers to interact with the content.
When using link texts, try to:
- Avoid raw URLs
- Include specific keywords
- Be short and concise
- Make sure the link text fits naturally into the content
- Mention the type and size of files in case of downloadable links
2. Write clear and simple content.
Using concise language for your website's content benefits multiple groups of visitors, such as:
- Users with cognitive disabilities
- Non-native English speakers
- Screen reader users
- Busy people who want to quickly go through your copy
Depending on the professional level of your content's target audience, you should either avoid or explain technical terms and acronyms. Also, focus on using an active voice that clearly states your ideas and avoid long sentences and idioms.
3. Provide transcripts and captions.
While captions appear on the screen as written text, transcripts are the textual version of the video or audio content provided in a separate document.
Transcripts and captions make websites more accessible for users who:
- Have hearing issues
- Have low English skills
- Can't listen to the content due to environmental reasons
Transcripts and captions can be provided for all video and audio content, or they can be done by request. Either way, they are great ways to improve a website's accessibility.
4. Add relevant, appropriately formatted headlines.
People with disabilities that use assistive software need scannable content that allows them to quickly find relevant information instead of wasting time going through the entire chunk of text. Structuring and styling your content in a scannable manner can also enhance your SEO efforts and improves your SERP visibility.
Design your headings with accessibility in mind, and ensure that you use them as structural elements of the content and define its hierarchy. The accessible text needs to provide readers the ability to quickly navigate between the most important sections, and headings are the tool for allowing this.
5. Use ALT text for images.
Whether you have complex images or just decorative images on your site, make them accessible by providing precise and concise ALT descriptions. Screen readers can't interpret non-text content elements, so images without ALT text are useless for screen reader users.
Like headlines, alternate descriptions highly improve your SEO rankings and visibility.
Make sure you use ALT text wisely by:
- Keeping your description short (under 125 characters)
- Avoiding images with text like graphs or diagrams
6. Write clear, to-the-point website instructions.
Web accessibility is all about easier interactions with digital platforms. People want web experiences that require as few resources as possible on their part. And for online visitors with disabilities, this is more than a demand; it is a necessity.
Therefore, web instructions, error messages, or data formats must be easy to understand, so they can be considered accessible. Part of creating accessible web content includes paying attention to how you write basic text like website instructions.
Web accessibility is here to stay.
Implementing web accessibility into the core of your digital platform is a must. As web accessibility laws are getting more restrictive, brands start to think of making their websites accessible to support the future of their businesses.
In an increasingly populated digital landscape, the mindset has to evolve in order to meet the complex needs of a variety of internet users. Companies that don't keep up with these trends will fall behind, and those who take web accessibility seriously will be on the winning side.
As we've seen, accessible content creation is not rocket science and will improve your website in multiple ways. Making your content accessible should be a priority and an essential part of your editorial workflow.
A few practices to remember for optimizing your content are:
- Always use ALT text for images
- Provide captions and transcripts for audio and video content
- Properly structure and format headings
If you need help to make your website more accessible, check out Optasy's Drupal Website Accessibility services. We'll offer our best support for helping you adopt an accessibility-first mindset to your website.
Photo credit: Nick Morrison on Unsplash.