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Making Graphics Accessible Content Creators Guide

Posted by Isobel Rogers on Sep 15, 2022 | 

Accessibility

Currently, we are living in an era of co-existence between people and social media. More than ever, social media is playing an integral role in our daily lives. For many people, it has transformed into a primary form of communication. It’s one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and it’s also one of tech’s biggest money-makers. As a result of this, digital content creation has become a highly lucrative career path.

Within the US, it was reported that nearly 30% of children expressed that they wanted to become a Youtuber or a vlogger when they grew up. In all honesty, they might just have the right idea! By 2030, the global digital content creation market is predicted to reach a staggering $38.2 billion. Worldwide, there are currently over one billion active Instagram users. Within this user population, it’s also predicted that 500,000 of them are active influencers. With figures like this, it's no wonder that full-time content creation has seen such popularization.

With a big audience, social media can have massive earning potential. Because of this, you would think content creators make content that caters to everyone, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A lot of the digital content being produced currently is inaccessible to people with disabilities and impairments. Not only is this unfair, but it’s also a bad business move. So, we’ve made an easy-to-follow guide that will help you make your social media more accessible.

Digital Content is for Everyone

Globally, there are over one billion people with disabilities. That's 15% of the population. This also equates to 15% of your potential audience. In spite of this, there’s still a massive portion of digital content being produced that’s inaccessible to these individuals.

Digital accessibility is all about ensuring that digital content is accessible to individuals with disabilities and impairments. It’s also about ensuring that the tech is designed in a way that doesn’t prevent these people from using it. It was reported that 71% of users who find a piece of digital content inaccessible don’t put forward a complaint about it, instead, they just leave.

The UN states that digital accessibility is a human right. Not only do you have a moral responsibility to make your content accessible, but it’s far more profitable if you do. As the earlier statistic shows, by making your content inaccessible, you are missing out on a massive potential audience.

Accessible Images and Graphics

Graphics can be defined as the products of graphic art, particularly commercial design. To make sure that we cover all bases within this article, I'm also going to include photography-based images as a part of this definition. Essentially, any type of content that would primarily be found on any image-based social media (such as Instagram or Pinterest) will be covered in this section.

Making graphics that are accessible for people with vision impairment can often be tricky. Many content creators prioritize aesthetics over accessibility. But a good content creator knows that you don't have to compromise either of these things. If you follow these simple suggestions, you can make great graphics that can be appreciated by everyone.

Vision impairment exists on a spectrum. People with vision impairments can range from having photophobia (an inability to tolerate light) to total blindness. So, keep this in mind when creating graphics.

Include an Alt-Text Alternative

Alt-text (also known as alt tags or alt descriptions) are short pieces of copy that help to describe an image on a webpage when it doesn’t load properly. This text also helps screen readers to describe an image to individuals with visual impairment.

All major social media platforms provide an alt-text feature. Alt-text should be kept simple and straight to the point – leave your caption for all the little details!

It’s also important to note, that certain social media platforms have story features that do not support alt-text. Henceforth, story features are not always accessible. Because of this, never use your story to post relevant information that cannot be found elsewhere.

How to Access Alt-Text (From iOS Apps)

Instagram

Pinterest

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn

Color Shouldn't be a Grey Area

When considering accessible imagery, a basic starting point to consider is color contrast. Utilizing color contrast properly ensures that your graphics, images, and text are all as visible as possible.

According to WCAG guidelines, you should have a minimum text-to-background contrast ratio of 4.5. The colors with the largest contrast ratio are black and white, which is often a solid choice. However, for people with dyslexia, this is often too dazzling and can be difficult to read. Black on soft warm toned colors such as peach, yellow, or orange can be easier on the eyes. In turn, these are much easier to read for people with dyslexia. Consider providing your graphics in a few color waves that suit different accessibility needs. Whilst we generally want to use colors with a great amount of contrast, color combinations such as red/green and blue/yellow should be avoided as they are difficult to read.

When implementing color into digital content, it’s also important to note that color isn’t accessible to everyone. Around 300 million people are color-blind. Therefore, color alone should never be used to represent something. Make sure that there is always something extra to identify the information that the color is meant to indicate. Ideally, this would be a text description. If you are creating an infographic, you can also use basic patterns to differentiate data.

Focus on the Good Stuff

A lot of the time, accessibility is just about going back to the basics. An accessible image is a simple image. Choose a photo with a clear focal point. Its focal point should be big, bright, and bold. To ensure that the focus of the image has a chance to shine, put it on a darker or contrasting background.

It can be tempting to over-edit your photos. Particularly when you’re trying to embody a certain aesthetic. However, this can lead to the image becoming inaccessible. Keep the editing on the simple side. Make sure your image is high resolution with clear-cut colors and a good contrast between shadows and highlights.

Know Where to Draw the Line

Using and creating illustrations can often have a big role in digital content creation. Whether this is as part of an infographic or just a cute addition to your blog post. Illustrations are made to be enjoyed, so we want to make them as accessible as possible.

When creating accessible illustrations, it’s best to stick to bold and simplistic designs. Think of bright contrasting colors, bold lines, and simple shapes. As mentioned in the previous section, these designs work best when there’s a single focal point on a plain background. It’s best to not over-complicate minor details such as background objects, textures, and complex shading.

Inclusivity is also another important factor in the creation of illustrations. When composing your illustrations, ask yourself: are these illustrations representative of my whole community? Inclusive illustrations ensure that they reflect the diversity of the world that we live in. This includes people of different ethnicities, sexualities, genders, ages as well as abilities and disabilities. It's important that everyone sees themselves represented!

If You've Got It, Font It!

When creating a text graphic, the font can make or break how accessible it's going to be. Make sure that you choose a bold and simple font that contrasts with its background. Simple is always best. Often, it is also the most striking option - no aesthetics compromised here. It’s best to put fonts on a plain, solid color background as text over images can be hard to read.

When writing text on your social media platforms, always make sure to use the standard font provided. Some websites offer alternative ‘cool’ fonts via copy-and-paste mathematical symbols or foreign language letters. However, this is completely incompatible for people who use screen readers, so it’s best to steer clear.

It’s also important that we avoid over-stylizing our text. Using features such as italics, bold, or underline can make your text look messy and can quickly become difficult for anyone to read. When in doubt, stick to a normal grammatical structure with shorter sentences and a regular text flow.

Put Your Captions into Action

Many people with vision impairment rely on screen readers to visualize digital images. This makes context surrounding your image essential. Although all major social media platforms provide an alt-text feature, these are only small pieces of copy and can feel somewhat impersonal. Therefore, making the most of your captions is a great way to increase accessibility whilst connecting with your audience.

You have your image or graphic in front of you. Think: what is it trying to convey? How would you put it into words? Try to include as many important details as you can, the more context the better! Not only is this beneficial to people with screen readers, but a great caption makes your content stand out. People don’t just want to see the story behind the photo, they want to see your story behind your photo. Treat your caption like a mini letter to your audience. Everyone likes a bit of personal flare.

When creating captions, we want to make them as easy to read as possible. Writing in clear and concise sentences increases accessibility, as well as ensuring that you don't go over the character limit. It's best to avoid things such as symbols, hashtags, and emojis mid-sentence as they can be hard to read. Good things come in small doses! Limit the usage of all of these and keep them towards the end of the sentence. Similarly, hashtags can quickly become difficult to decode. When including them stick to CamelCase (each new word capitalized), this ensures that they're accessible to screen readers and aren't too confusing to read.

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First posted Sep 2022