Is your digital content accessible?

"Is your digital content accessible?" written on a chalk board

I heard some really powerful stories today; I was at the Diversity Thinking event at work for the morning sessions, the audience at IBM South Bank heard from around five key speakers. 

David Apps at the event telling the audience about his daily challengesClaire Harvey, Paralympic Volleyball player, shares her story to the audience

The first, Claire Harvey who has spent the past 9 years or so in a wheelchair, yet this didn’t stop her being captain of the GB Volleyball team for the 2012 Paralympics. 

Next was Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet who shared videos and stories about the fantastic technology available to help make life easier for those who are disabled or impaired. 

Then three IBMers spoke, Lucy Bramley told us a fantastic poem about combatting stress and Steph McGuire told us about the great support she’s had from IBM during her career with us. 

Then David Apps spoke. With his Braille notes on his lap, David told us that when his productivity isn’t high, he feels guilty. He excitedly told us he loved his job, and wished more people loved theirs too. He told us about how, despite accessibility being great at IBM and included as part of the training and education tools, when doing mandatory education that should take an hour, it takes him all day. And he talked honestly about how hard digital content can be to engage with, without the right accessibility in place. 

This got me thinking about how the digital world has evolved, in particular, the use of video has become so prevalent, what about people watching who are deaf? Photos? What about people who are blind or partially sighted? 

The good news about digital content creation is that in many instances it is easy to make fonts bigger, in a different colour, you can print things and convert into different media in an instant. ‘Reasonable Adjustment’ is the term that refers to changes you have to make to meet the Equality Act 2010. The word reasonable is used, as you’re not expected to make all your content or materials accessible to EVERYONE, but neither are you permitted to do nothing.

I’ve recently helped create a video to raise awareness within IBM about people who are partially deaf.  It aims to help people understand the challenges that this community face each day in meetings, on the phone and in social environments. Since then I’ve ensured captions are available on the videos I produce, it’s a simple thing but can make so much difference.  

Here’s 3 very small things to consider to make your digital content more accessible:

1/ Moving images; make sure they have captions, make it easy for those who are deaf to still view a video – make sure no one misses out. 

2/ Still imagery; this should be accompanied by a description. Blind people often use screen readers at work, which read out the text on a screen to assist them in using computers. By adding an ALT tag, which is just a short description of the image, you can help users understand the complementary images that are in your post or site. 

3/ Audio files; to give this a reasonable adjustment, a transcript should be provided. 

As I’ve been typing this post I’ve realised how my whole blog is probably completely inaccessible, I don’t think I’ve thought about it so much until now. I’ve never added an ALT tag on this site until today; David really brought it home. 

I’m definitely going to be working on projects about this at work over the next couple of months, especially with my deaf awareness video, but it’s something for everyone to consider. 

Take a look at this website for more details on accessibility and when producing your own content take a minute to think, is my digital content accessible? 


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