By Mackenzie Meyers
After attending this Icon session I was pleasantly surprised and amazed by the amount of knowledge I learned in just 60 minutes about disability accessibility, as it is not a topic commonly discussed. This session was extremely valuable for me not only as one who sees herself going into the communication/marketing field but as a future college graduate looking for an organization to work for.
Speaker’s Virginia Devlin, CEO of Current Global, and Sena Pottackal, Junior Associate at Current Global started their presentation by sharing visual descriptions of themselves to make it more inclusive for those with disabilities as well as Sena herself who is visually impaired. Many companies publish inaccessible content that excludes people with sight, speech, cognitive and hearing disabilities. We as a society need to do better. Current Global is the first global communications agency to ensure that every message and every piece of content created and shared on behalf of themselves and their clients is accessible to all. Virginia states that “People with disabilities are an under-served community. “Every day, communicators publish inaccessible content, excluding people with disabilities. At Current Global, we are committed to make all our content Accessible by Design,”.
Moreover, Current Global did a research report on how media was consumed by people with disabilities and the results are below:
–Social media is the most problematic channel. Social media is a struggle for many people with disabilities. 1/5th of the participants said that social media channels are very difficult to use and consume content on, making it the most problematic media channel.
-Assistive tools fail to solve the problem. 64% of participants who use an assistive tool said they experienced challenges consuming content. With 30% of these individuals contributing these issues to the content itself, directly pointing to where brands have an opportunity to help.
–Accessibility of communications impacts attitudes and actions towards brands, affecting the bottom line. Inaccessible communications yield negative outcomes. When communications are inaccessible, 40% of participants said they would take negative actions toward a brand. Additionally, 81% of participants said inaccessible communications evoke negative emotions towards a brand.
Furthermore, Sena explained the difference between good and bad Alt text. Good Alt text describes images in vast detail with about a paragraph of description for every picture, while the bad Alt text only provides a one-sentence description that does not help people with disabilities imagine the picture at all.
Sena also gave viewers a list of tips for creating good “Alt text” for those with disabilities:
-Determine if the image is decorative(just for aesthetic purposes and doesn’t need a description) or meaningful.
-Avoid auto-generated descriptions, which do not provide sufficiently informative descriptions for users of screen readers.
-Write your own descriptive but concise alt text, explaining key visual elements and how the image supports key messages
-Craft your alt text in a word processor to catch typos and grammatical errors.
Sena additionally gave tips on creating audio descriptions and gave an example of audio description as closed captions on videos:
-Describe what you see objectively.
-Use the present tense in an active voice while providing third-person narration. For example, “Tim arrives home and unlocks his door.”
-Use complete sentences when possible.
-Describe actions while or slightly before they occur on-screen
-Avoid recording your description over dialogue.
Finally, Sena gave listeners helpful advice on hosting an accessible video call that is accessible for people with disabilities:
-Enable closed captions.
-Ask participants to introduce themself with a self-description.
-Request participants state their name each time they speak to indicate a change in speakers.
-If discussing materials, email accessible versions in advance.
-If sharing your screen or presenting during a call, verbally describe important visual elements.
The end takeaway and “ask” from this Icon session was to work towards making all of your communication accessible and which means taking baby steps each day at your organization to make a more inclusive workspace. Unfortunately, making communication accessible for everyone is not a fast and easy change. However, as long as everyone in their own organizations makes an effort to change, we will be able to say that we are consciously making the effort to change and make the communications field a better, more inclusive place.
*****Additionally, to help with the lack of inclusivity in our society, Current Global partnered with the PRCA and PR Council to publish guidelines to help others to create accessible content and campaigns. The guidelines are free and cover:
-Accessibility features on social media.
-Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker and accessible PDFs.
-Audio description, alternative text, closed captions, and transcripts.
-Accessible event guidelines.