Thursday | April 28, 2022
Writing for Web Accessibility: Learn How to Create Engaging Accessible Content
We all know the feeling. You click on an article that looks intriguing, only to find yourself trying to decode what seems to be a foreign language and go, “Whoa, what’s going on here? Is this site even English?” And you’re like, “This is CRAZY! How can anyone understand this? I’m just too tired. I need to sleep.”
It starts getting frustrating very quickly. No matter how hard you squint your eyes, you can’t read anything. Finally, you get to the point where you just give up and go away. “Maybe I’ll come back later,” you think to yourself.
The funny thing is, you won’t come back later because there are millions of other places to go online that work like they’re supposed to. Each month, more websites are becoming accessible. Not because they want to, but because they have to.
There are many benefits to having accessible content on your website. The problem is that most people have no clue what to do or how to get started. Writing accessible content for the web can be tricky. Conclusion: there are so many considerations regarding accessibility, like avoiding jargon and making links obvious, that writing can take ages.
The first step is knowing how your users will be consuming the content. Then, using simple techniques, you can ensure that your copywriting considers these steps. I’ve put together this article for you so you can learn some tips on making your content more accessible. So let’s dive in!
A good contrast ratio is important to read the text clearly and efficiently. According to Web Aim, the contrast ratio of normal text to background should be 4.5:1 or, with larger text 3:1 ratio. This criterion is also applicable to images of text.
Images are often rendered in a pixel format and need to be at least 4.5:1 in contrast. However, the minimum contrast ratio for images must not be less than 3:1 for accessibility reasons. In addition, using high-contrast colors and a readable font can also enhance the accessibility of content.
Regardless of the website’s format, good contrast is essential for web accessibility. That helps people with visual impairments to read your content with ease. In addition, good contrast is critical for mobile device users in dim lighting conditions. It is also essential to take care of contrast when incorporating images of text, whether part of a logo or simply decorative photos. Doing this will increase the chance of accessibility for the website.
Writing accessible copy has several benefits, but the main one is to make it easier for people to understand. That would require you to use shorter sentences and simple words. A good rule of thumb is to write between a 6 – 7 grade reading level. For this, you can use the Hemingway Editor or a similar tool. You can also add visual guidance to your content to improve its accessibility.
When formatting accessible content, you should always keep the document’s purpose in mind. You want it to be clear and straightforward. Start by visually breaking up the content. Use headings, lists, spacing between lines, and readable fonts.
For example, you may want to consider a readable font, such as Helvetica. Try using 16pt size and 65 characters per line. Readable fonts with proper sizing will make it easier for people with low vision to understand the content on your site.
When writing accessible copy, it would be ideal to use people-first language to avoid dehumanizing or stigmatizing your target audience. This language tip aims to help your audience feel comfortable and understand your message.
People who have disabilities prefer to read in the people-first language. By using this language, you emphasize the individual, not the disability. For example, “person who is blind, person who is visually impaired” instead of “blind people or blind person.”
A call to action is essential in any marketing communication. Ensure your call to action is clear, especially for people with learning disabilities. The most successful content translates to higher sales.
People-first language makes your content easier to understand for everyone, not just those with disabilities, and is respectful. Just remember that no one likes to be confused or feel disrespected. Try to write in a people-first language to make your copywriting effective, easy to read, and inclusive.
Alternative Text or Alt text
When creating a web page, it is essential to include appropriate alt text for images. Screen readers are unable to see images without a proper title and caption. In such cases, the alt text must be more descriptive and related to the page’s content. Make your content clear, concise, and to the point. Screen readers generally stop reading the alt text after about 125 characters.
If you have images on your page that are not bringing additional value to the content itself, you should leave the alt text field blank. These types of images are more decorative rather than informational.
It’s essential to write the alt text so that it makes sense in context to the rest of the content. What purpose or message are you trying to convey with the image?
For example, If you use an image of a man riding his bicycle in the mountains should be described using alt text that gives the audience an idea of what he is doing and where he is. The alt text should be brief yet descriptive. It should convey a sense of urgency, tone, and emotion. In addition, the reader should be free of unnecessary words, long sentences, and adjectives that aren’t essential to copywriting.
Another vital aspect of alt text is making sure the alt-text has proper punctuation. It might read like a run-on sentence without proper punctuation and be unreadable. Check the text using Microsoft Word’s built-in spell checker or copy and paste it into an alt text window on another piece of software. Although most modern browsers automatically check for spelling and grammar, it’s still a good idea to proofread your copywriting before publishing it on the web.
One of my favorite tools is Chromevox. Use a screen reader tool to test how your alt-text sounds so you can recalibrate the punctuation to make it sound better for screen reader users.
It is important to remember that you should write your marketing communication with a specific purpose. Therefore, accessible copywriting must make the call to action clear. That is especially important when writing for people with learning disabilities.
The copy can distract the reader before reaching the content if the copy is unclear. A good rule to follow in writing accessible copy is to keep the body of the copy short and sweet. While clever copy can be great, the content should be easy to understand and digest.
To make your content more accessible, use the people-first language. Research shows that over 90% of accessible content is good copywriting. Well-written copy is easy to understand and gives the user a clear idea of what to do next. In addition, use high-contrast colors and readable fonts. Use Plain English and avoid complicated words or jargon.
Accessible copywriting can be a challenge initially, but it will become much easier if you take the time to learn the key elements. Remember, accessible content is not just about the message. It’s about the way you make it accessible to the reader.
That means having good content, and a structured message is not enough. You must also make sure that the message is easy to find, follow, and understand.
Making your writing accessible doesn’t need to be difficult. Some of the things that you can do to improve your copy include using good contrast ratios, formatting the content to be easily skimmed, and writing alt text for images. Plus, use people-first language in your headlines and throughout the content itself. Good luck making your marketing communication accessible!
If you want more information on web accessibility, follow me here on Linkedin. Say hi! I love meeting new people. What is the next accessibility topic you would like to learn more about? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.