good news #1:
i have decided that spending loads of time researching information only to later use it for an academical essay no one will really read is pissing me off too much, and instead of being angry at wasting my time like that, i will be translating those findings into much more reader-friendly language, and publish them here.
good news #2:
one such essay was about online accessibility, aka how to make the web easier to use for everyone, with special focus on the needs of folks with various impairments. and that’s exactly what this article is about!
what is online accessibility?
making something accessible simply means reducing the barriers to approaching or to using something some people might face, whilst others don’t. accessibility is often associated with people with disabilities, but they’re not the only ones whose access is restricted – it also heavily depends on folks’ gender, sexuality, race, class, religion,… simply put, access may be thwarted by not only ableism (= discrimination folks with disabilities; seeing able-bodied people as the “norm(al)” and anyone not fitting into that as of less value), but also racism, sexism, or classism, to name a few.
online accessibility is then a conscious, continuous act of removing such barriers based on discrimination of various marginalized groups of people, and trying to make the online sphere not only approachable for them, but also safe and welcoming.
why does online accessibility matter?
obviously, the Internet pretty much rules our lives in the present times. not only it is a source of information and a way to connect with others, but it’s becoming more and more tied to legal citizenship, housing, education, or employment. to sum up, there’s a LOT of stuff online. business & pleasure. tons of information. why should some people be prevented from getting it? try to come up with one single good reason for that. i’ll wait.
online accessibility matters because it strives to make the Internet that universal resource “for everyone” as it is so commonly presented.
who and what needs to be taken into consideration?
for example: people with visual impairments. people with mobility limitations. people with learning difficulties. people who are new Internet users. older people. people with epilepsy. people with limited digital literacy. people who use screen readers, head wands, mouth sticks, alternative keyboards, and so on.
at the same time, making the web accessible isn’t just a “nice gesture” for those with any kinds of limitations, whether physical or mental or any other (it is a duty, by the way), chronic or temporary. accessible Internet means easier use for everyone, period.
how to make your online content more accessible?
(please bear in mind that i am no expert, this is just a brief summary of my own findings i used for a uni paper)
● color contrast ratio
according to WCAG 2.0, which is basically the most legit directory of online accessibility, the contrast ratio between text and background needs to be at least 4.5:1 (the higher, the better, of course). preferably, provide a version with enhanced 7:1 contrast ratio too! if you have no idea how to figure that out, no need to worry, there are handy tools for that – such as https://colorable.jxnblk.com/, where you just put in the colors you’re using and it counts the contrast for you.
● trigger/content warnings (TW/CW)
content warnings (i prefer this term over TW) are hella helpful! not only do they help in letting folks know about potential dangerous/triggering content, but they can also provide a bit of a summary of what to expect in an article. and no, i’m not going to debate the importance of them, nor will i fight with someone who thinks they’re just a “special snowflake” invention. these warning are important, and necessary. next!
● make sure the text is easy to read
divide it into short(er) paragraphs that are easy to navigate. highlight important things. use simple language that does not prevent readers from understanding your main points.
● enable “tabbing”
lots of folks navigate their way through websites through the Tab key, and therefore all links need to be accessible that way. speaking of that…
● descriptive links instead of “click here”
always write out what can be found under a link you’re pasting into your post – it’s better to figure out what’s there when tabbing, or using a screen reader etc.
● image captions
any non-text content needs to be captioned. simply describe what can be found on the image so everyone can know what exactly is there.
● adding subtitles/transcripts to videos
same goes for videos, obvi.
● well-organized website design
make it intuitive. make it well-structured. make it the same throughout the whole website.
● provide a site map
easier to navigate!
● avoid flashing animations
i know it’s very cool to have super elaborate websites with millions of gifs, music playing and what not. but again, keep it simple, and keep it easy to figure one’s way around.
● don’t forget the search bar
even easier navigation!
● include a panic button
this goes for websites with NSFW content, or potential outing information, such as various LGBTQIA+ resources – by clicking the panic button one gets immediately taken to an “innocent” website and prevents themselves from sharing private information with others
2. social media
● #CamelCase hashtag
aka don’t write everything in low caps, and indicate the beginning of each new word by a capital letter. as easy as that!
● image captions, again.
write your heart out! it’s actually quite fun trying to describe your Insta posts, trust me.
● content warnings
always, always, always.
● color contrast ratio for Instagram stories/Snapchat/image posts with text
the 4.5:1 contrast ratio rule applies to this too.
● live captions for videos/Instagram stories/Snapchat + subtitles/transcripts for regular video posts
there’s actually an app called Clipomatic, which transcribes what you say as you’re taking the video, which i can highly recommend (unfortunately, it’s paid).
this is just a brief overview, and while it might seem a bit overwhelming, in fact it’s pretty easy to implement all these things, step by step.
if you have any more online accessibility tips, feel free to share!