Why everyone should write accessible content
If I manage to make a small difference in how organisations approach digital content in the coming years, I will consider my career a success.
Why is content accessibility important?
You can have the most accessible website, platform, app from the technical side. But if the content inside it is not, the rest does not matter. Why? Because people will still not be able to find what they’re looking for or understand the information they need.
And yet accessibility is often forgotten when it comes to content. In digital we tend to overlook the words on the page, paragraphs, headings, information architecture as things that need to be accessible.
Instead, people are either excluded or forced to find adjustments just so they can access information or services.
Disabled people are your audience
As a society, we tend to segment disabled people as ‘people out there’. A specific and separate audience that does not overlap with other audiences or people we work with.
But disabled people are account managers, designers, journalists, MPs, and importantly, your colleagues. I always encourage people to think of disabled people as everywhere and everyone. There are over 14 million disabled people in the UK, after all.
We also need to stop thinking about accessibility as changing our existing content. But instead designing content for everyone before you begin. Your way of working should aim to be inclusive without a second thought.
This way you’re always writing accessible and inclusive content regardless of who you’re writing it for and what format it’s in.
I cannot write inclusive content because….
There are so many reasons why people struggle to make their content accessible, and often resist making changes. It’s…
- “my audience needs every bit of detail”
- “the audience wants complex language”
- “we have a specific audience so we need to write this way”
It’s not writing for your audience versus writing accessible content. You do not have to choose one. You can still
- explain something complex in plain English, while keeping an academic or authoritative tone
- use jargon but explain what it means
- cut away detail and still give people the information they need
- sell products using language that includes people rather than excludes them
Disabled people have a collective spending power of around £274 billion a year, being accessible to disabled customers has benefits.
Getting started with accessible content
The biggest challenge most organisations have is that everyone needs to know how to write accessible content. From senior management to interns. For your customers and your colleagues. Even if you’re not a writer, everyone needs to be confident with writing accessible content.
This includes your emails. You might ‘know’ the person you’re writing to is not disabled. But you cannot guarantee your email will not be sent on to someone who is.
So how do you make content more inclusive? There are some easy basics to help you improve accessibility and readability.
To get started, take a look at:
- Hemingway app. Aim for a readability grade of 6 to 8.
- Writing for web accessibility tips (WCAG)
- How to improve your writing with plain English
- How to write better website content for people with dyslexia
- Heading structure and accessibility
- Dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility (Home Office posters)