You are missing an entire audience every time you ignore this one key practice.

According to the World Health Organization, you are missing approximately 16% of the global population, or 1.3 billion people.

What is this key practice exactly? Accessibility. 

PR is notoriously dynamic and fast-paced, demanding professionals keep up or risk falling into obscurity. A major part of this demand has come from the need for improved DEI initiatives. Consumers want to see that brands care about social and cultural issues, and employees want to work for companies that prioritize inclusivity and representation.

Unfortunately, most DEI efforts do not consider accessibility and miss the opportunity to engage with an entire population. Accessibility Services Canada defines accessibility as “the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities.”

As a communicator, your job is to deliver clear and convenient information to your intended audience, which includes people with disabilities.

Where to Begin

So, you’re new to accessible communications and want to know where to start. Matisse Hamel-Nelis, a professional communicator and accessibility advocate, recommends starting with baby steps. “It’s progress over perfection,” says Hamel-Nelis. “Nobody is perfect when they start…even just taking that initial step and trying one little thing makes a difference.”

Nobody expects perfection overnight; they just need to be willing to try. Here are some simple ways you can improve your communication game and start crafting more accessible content.

CamelCase Hashtags

CamelCase hashtags are arguably the easiest way to make social media content more accessible. In CamelCase, each word is capitalized. For instance, #camelcasehashtag becomes #CamelCaseHashtag. This format allows screen readers to read the words in hashtags more accurately.

Alt Text

Alt text provides image descriptions to help people with visual impairments better understand the content and context of an image. Remember, alt text is not a caption; it is a description of the image, so be detailed but concise when writing it.

Check Your Contrast

When choosing the background and font color for your latest PowerPoint, consider the contrast ratio. If a font is too small or the colors don’t have enough contrast, people with moderately low vision cannot read the text without a screen reader.

To check your contrast, use the WCAG recommended color contrast accessibility validator.

Captions and Subtitles

There are three captions: subtitles, closed captions, and open captions. Subtitles directly translate a video’s dialogue and do not include any additional context. Traditional subtitles will not transcribe off-screen or non-dialogue sounds and music. Captions, however, are transcribed specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. Captions include transcription for non-dialogue sounds like music, sound effects, and speaker identification.

While you can toggle closed captions on and off, open captions are burned into the video and cannot be turned off. Most applications offer auto-captioning, so captions and subtitles can be easily implemented into your social media content, short-form video content, PowerPoint presentations, Zoom meetings, or website videos.

It’s Not Just About Compliance

Accessibility compliance laws like the ADA and AODA should be the baseline for communications professionals. While the WCAG guidelines are a great place to start, crafting accessible content should not simply be about meeting these rules. “It honestly comes down to building a culture around accessibility, inclusion, diversity, and equity,” says Hamel-Nelis. “Not just talking the talk and doing the bare minimum.”

It can feel intimidating to start implementing accessible communications into your daily routine. There is so much information out there and it can be overwhelming knowing how and where to start. Remember, start small, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 

Ryann Wiseman

Ryann Wiseman is an emerging PR professional and enthusiastic student. As she studies PR and strategic communications at Durham College, Ryann acts as managing editor for the college’s Fall 2024 edition of its alumni magazine, Reflections. Ryann brings her passion for storytelling and audience engagement to an internship at Girls Inc. where she crafts impactful social media strategies and develops compelling communications content. Ryann values authenticity, dedication, and innovation, and is always striving to bring that to the work that she does.

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