Creating accessible marketing materials isn’t as hard as you might think. Check out our list of ways to make your website, images, copy and emails accessible to all:

Your website

Your site is ground zero for accessibility. With around 15% of people in the world experiencing some form of disability, you can assume that a similar percentage of your site visitors do too. The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) include, but are not limited to, the following requirements:

  • Give users control: Beautiful images that automatically slide across the screen and videos that auto-play are helpful for marketing purposes, but make sure that users can click through images at their own pace and pause videos if they want to. Some people have cognitive disabilities that require them to take extra time to absorb what you’re telling them.
  • Design your site with mobile and desktop in mind: Make sure that your desktop site is usable for people with cognitive and visual impairments. Limit the length of lines of text, make sure the relationship between text and images is clear, and use plenty of white space to delineate pieces of content.
  • Use clear form labels: Form field labels should be descriptive but also reside outside the fields, not inside them. Screen readers can miss labels that are inside fields.
  • Enable keyboard navigation: Some people rely on their keyboards to navigate the web, so make sure your site is set up for that. In particular, it should be clear what activation state a link is in when someone navigates to it with their keyboard.
  • Watch your use of color and contrast ratios: Don’t rely on color alone to convey information, since some people are color blind. For example, consider how a traffic light uses the positions of the lights, in addition to color, to tell people to stop, go, and slow down. In addition, use a contrast ration of at least 4.5:1 for text on images, so words don’t get lost against the background.

Image, video, and audio files

No matter where you use images, videos, and audio clips – website pages, social media posts, emails, PDFs, and so forth – you should make sure they’re accessible by everyone.

Use alt text on all your image files, so screen readers can describe them to visually impaired users. Image captions are also helpful, but try to minimize the use of text on images – if you decide to place text on images, make sure the image can be understandable without the text.

Put open captions, or subtitles, on all your videos, which is useful not only for the deaf and hard-of-hearing but also for non-disabled people who are watching with the sound off but don’t have earphones or headphones at the moment. Unlike closed captions, which can be turned off, open captions are always visible. Just make sure they don’t cover any key details on the screen.

Audio clips and videos should have transcripts available. Ideally, a transcript will also describe any pieces of audio that are important, such as sound effects, as well as explain what’s happening in a video.

It’s a good idea to avoid GIFs whenever possible, since they typically don’t support alt text, unless there’s accompanying text that describes them, such as in a tutorial.

In addition, using an excessive amount of emojis can be disruptive because screen readers read the name of each one, and some have lengthy names. For example, an email that advertises airfare deals doesn’t need more than one airplane emoji in the subject line. And it’s better to use the emoji with the name “grinning face” than the one that’s called “grinning face with smiling eyes.”

Your text, no matter where it’s found

There are several ways you can make your text more accessible for people with vision, cognitive, physical, and other disabilities. They include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Short sentences and paragraphs: Shorter is almost always better, given how busy most people are, but it’s helpful for disabled people to use a logical flow and keep your text brief, so it’s easily understood. You should aim for 50-70 characters per line.
  • Left alignment: Your text should be left-aligned to make it easier to read.
  • Consistent subheaders: Your H2 and H3 subheaders should help organize your content in a logical way.
  • Clear quotes: Italicized text is often not the best way to convey quotes. It’s better to use a block quote tag for long quotes, or the <q> tag for in-line quotes.
  • Limited jargon: Unless you’re writing for a technical-minded audience, keep the number of complex words to a minimum.
  • Accessible data tables: Make sure your tables have headers and are organized properly, so someone using a screen reader can understand the relationship between the pieces of information.

Emails

In addition to the suggestions we’ve already provided, there are certain things you should check off your list to ensure your emails are accessible too:

  • Obvious CTA buttons: They should be at least 48 pixels tall and should be clearly distinguished from other images.
  • Clear links: It helps to use at least two distinguishing characteristics with your text links, such as underlining and bolding them.
  • Descriptive alt text: Images often play a large role in an email, especially one with a marketing pitch, so make sure your images’ alt text is clear. Recipients will then know which ones are the most important to pay attention to. And make sure you avoid starting the alt text with something like “Image of,” since assistive technologies will typically include that information.
  • A strong hierarchy: The way your content is structured can help people with cognitive disabilities better understand what you’re trying to say. For example, use bold headers and plenty of white space between sections.
  • An HTML language attribute: This helps screen readers pronounce words correctly.
  • A plain text version: Many people who use screen readers prefer receiving plain text emails so they can understand exactly what’s being said without alt text and other things potentially getting in the way. You may want to offer the choice of plain text versions of all your emails.

~ Casey