Making Your Marketing More Accessible
Disability advocacy and awareness have come a long way in recent years. Buildings have become more accessible, interpreters have become more readily available, apps like “Be My Eyes” have allowed those with low vision to be more independent, and a large amount of content has become available for those with disabilities. As a woman with minor hearing loss, these advances are incredibly uplifting and essential. There’s nothing worse than finding a piece of media—whether it be social media, an ad, or an entire movie—and realizing that you cannot fully appreciate or experience it due to lack of accessibility. This feeling has become even more prevalent for those with hearing loss during the pandemic because masks have made lipreading impossible, along with the more obvious issue of masks muffling sounds. However, accessibility goes far beyond those with hearing loss, and disability advocates have been working for years to ensure that everyone has access if they so desire.
Why Does it Matter?
It’s far too easy for non-disabled people to say, “why should I care? It doesn’t affect me.” Especially when it comes to media, there are very few rules and regulations in place that require accessibility measures to be implemented. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed just over 30 years ago, meaning that most accessibility measures are relatively recent. This act states that you cannot discriminate against anyone based on disabilities, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be access in all situations. Despite the efforts of advocates, many people with disabilities find themselves stranded without accommodations in situations where they desperately need them.
As people without disabilities, we have a responsibility to listen to and uplift others’ voices. Countless areas need reformation to be more inclusive, but some fairly simple steps can make marketing more accessible for a wide range of people. By taking these steps, you can be sure that you aren’t alienating your potential audience and reaching a much wider audience.
What Can I Do?
This list is by no means exhaustive, and the best way to determine what sort of accommodations are needed is to ask those requesting them directly. However, below are a few things that can provide easier access to your marketing materials.
Add Closed Captions/Subtitles
This step is possibly one of the easiest ways to make your marketing more accessible. If you’re posting a video, include closed captions or subtitles on them to ensure that those who are deaf or hard of hearing will be able to access the content. Many video platforms and apps will automatically generate captions, however these are not always accurate. The best way to guarantee that your message gets portrayed correctly is to write your captions or include a link to a video transcript. The rise of TikTok has been a fantastic example of how important it is to add captions to videos and show just how simple it is to do so.
Add Image Descriptions
Another straightforward way to increase the accessibility of your marketing is to include image descriptions or alt text on photos. While the two terms are used somewhat interchangeably, there are a few notable differences between them. Specifically, on Instagram, alternative text is embedded into the photo and announced by a screen reader if a viewer is using one. Someone without a screen reader will not be able to see this text. The alt text is also generally a shorter description to give the primary features of a photo. Image descriptions are usually included in captions, which get read on-screen and available for anyone viewing the photo. These are usually longer, more detailed descriptions. By including these features in your marketing, you will ensure that people who are blind or have low vision can fully understand your messages.
Use Bold Texts
Generally speaking, you will have a required color scheme to follow when creating content. Regardless of this, it’s important to remember to keep your text easy to read, including larger text, wider fonts, and higher contrast colors. Anyone consuming your media will appreciate this inclusion, but people who struggle with low vision, color blindness, or cognitive impairment will especially enjoy it. Incorporating these simple changes will make it much easier to read the messages on your marketing materials.
Use Inclusive Imaging
While this is less about accessibility, inclusivity and visibility are also incredibly important in disability advocacy. By including images that feature disabled bodies—without fetishizing the disability, of course—you are showing that your company is making an effort to be more inclusive. Plus, by making this conscious effort to include more people with disabilities in your media, you’ll likely become more aware of just how widespread many of these disabilities are.
The world of accessibility still has a long way to go before those with disabilities are genuinely treated as equals. Countless strategies are available to help with inclusivity and accessibility, and these marketing steps are just a few of them. Again, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start. By taking these steps, you show that you’re ready to begin moving toward a more equitable future. Don’t let it stop there, though. Be prepared to listen to the needs of those with disabilities and adjust your work accordingly.
Most importantly, remember that as a non-disabled person, you are not the authority on accessibility. We must work to amplify the voices of those who are in need rather than attempting to speak for them. With some work, we can begin to make the marketing world more inclusive. If your business is looking to join the movement towards a more inclusive marketing future, Online Optimism is the place to start. Join our Specialist Program to get your start in the marketing industry and help make marketing more accessible.