Structuring your content for accessibility requires some formatting and technical adjustments to your text-based, audio, and video content. On your website or social media, accessible content means people with visual and other impairments are able to access your content and understand it.
Additionally, Google and other search engines love accessibly structured content and may prioritize it in the search results, which can help you get more views and engagement on your content.
Text Accessibility Tips
If you’re creating a blog post or website content, the text is usually the bread and butter of your message. Here are some fast and simple tips to ensure your text is accessible.
Write in Short Paragraphs
When writing for the web, consider using short paragraphs to make it easier for the reader. A good guideline: imagine you’re reading your text on your phone. If the paragraph runs longer than your mobile phone screen, it’s probably too long to be accessible. While you’re at it, make sure you break up your text with a compressed image every 250 words or so.
You can find a royalty-free image for use on sites like Pixabay and Pexels, or at many other locations.
To make your content more accessible to all readers and search engines, use headings. Top-level headings, or H1s, indicate the main topic (or title) of your content. Those go in <H1> tags. Sub-headings should be scannable to the reader and go under <H2> headings. Need to break it down beyond that? Consider <H3> headings.
If all this code sounds confusing, don’t worry. Most word processing programs and CMSes (content management systems, like WordPress or Drupal) have WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) header editing options. To use them, highlight the text and then select the correct heading option. Here’s how to do that in WordPress, GoogleDocs, and Microsoft Word.
In addition to creating accessible content for users with screen readers, most people prefer to scan articles in this fashion to find relevant information. Proper headings make the text more accessible for everyone.
Use Accessible Font Choices
Users with visual impairments, as well as screen readers and other helpful AI (artificial intelligence) can best read accessible fonts. While you might think default or sans serif fonts are boring, they’re the defaults for a reason: they’re accessible and generally easier to read.
Static Image Accessibility Tips
Are you using pictures in the body of your text, or as the content itself? You might think images are completely inaccessible to those using screen readers, but that’s not so. Some folks who use screen readers have low vision, meaning they can magnify and consume visual content using special tools.
Additionally, search engines and users with accessibility needs often prefer images with alt-tags. Alt-tags are short descriptions that describe the content. Let’s say you have a photo of two dogs playing. Your alt-tag might read “two medium-sized poodle dogs playing.” This description gives the user a decent image in their mind. Even if they’ve only touched a poodle, they can imagine the texture when the dog is described.
If you’re posting memes or other text-heavy content on a website or social media, make sure to include the text in the image description. On Facebook, for example, post the meme, but along with the image, include what the text says.
Video Content Accessibility Tips
Do you regularly post video content? If so, make your videos more accessible to those with hearing impairments by including video captions on your video. Here are some things to think about:
- 28 million adult Americans can’t hear your video—they have hearing impairments.
- 85% of Facebook videos get played with no sound.
- Want people to watch your video to the end? Chances of them completing it increases significantly with video captions.
It may also help to include more information about the video in its description, including a transcript, a few bullet points about the content, and the video length.
When you include a transcript, make sure to use the words “video transcript” to aid users in searching specifically for the transcript. Remember: this also signals to Google and other search engines that you’re including a transcript, and that can increase your search engine ranking and visibility.
Accessibility Goes Beyond Hearing and Visual Impairments
Creating accessible content also means considering those who have cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities. Plus, according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), businesses must comply with accessibility needs. That doesn’t only refer to brick-and-mortar establishments, but to websites, social media platforms, and other online real estate as well.
What can you do to make the most accessible content? Consider presenting data in logical, easy-to-digest formats. While complex infographics look nice, simple data might work best in a small table. Those with cognitive impairments may be able to more easily understand the information.
Consider Other Definitions of Accessibility
Beyond visual accessibility, think about the people who might want to access your content and otherwise could not. Do you offer a product or service that appeals to children as well as adults? If so, you’ll need content (or maybe even your own app) that is child-friendly and accessible to kids—that means considering kids’ reading levels, interests, and colors that engage them.
While a parent considering a toy might want to know more about the safety, price, and educational value of it, a child will want to know when it’s available and what type of features it might have. A discerning grandparent might simply want to know how or where to order it so it arrives before the holidays. Can they get it in one click with Amazon? Even better.
Other accessibility considerations include:
- Broadband internet accessibility: Many internet users around the world rely partially or totally on mobile devices. Make sure your content is mobile-friendly (also essential for search engine ranking) and navigable on your phone.
- Financial accessibility: Is your content behind a paywall? If so, it may not be financially accessible to everyone.
With the right structure and accessibility considerations, your content has the potential to not only rank better but to impress and serve all the users you’re hoping to reach.