Accessible content 101: How to use CTAs to enhance accessibility and engagement

In 2023, I wrote a blog post sharing four ways you can be more accessible on social media & your website. In it, I shared my experience with the disability community (I’m hearing impaired and my husband is an Asia A Quadriplegic – meaning he’s paralysed from the neck down), how many people in the world experience some form of disability (15% – or a whopping one BILLION people), and four different ways you can be more accessible online (through ALT text, captions, CamelCase hashtags and conscious emoji usage). If those last four things need a little explanation or clarity for you, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND clicking here to read my blog about accessibility online

However, they aren’t the only things you can do to ensure you're providing a more accessible online experience, so in this blog I’m going to unpack how to make your call-to-actions (which all businesses need!) accessible to EVERYONE. 

Whether you sell products, have your own blog, create YouTube videos, podcast, share memes or make any of the other countless forms of content – personally or for your business – you create content and connect with people. This means two things:

  1. Your content should be inclusive (because no one should have to miss out on the greatness you have to offer!) 
  2. And most of your content, if not all, needs to have a call-to-action, because you want your reader/visitor/audience to DO something after they've read or watched your content. 

A call-to-action (or CTA) is some form of prompt that keeps your audience engaged, AND inspires them to take a desired action.

This is usually done through text links, but you also see it often in video formats (I mean, anyone who has watched a YouTube video has probably heard the line “like, comment, and subscribe”, which is a verbal CTA prompting you to engage further). My focus in this blog post is the text links, which can provide the biggest barriers to accessible content even though it barely takes a few words to fix!

For example, I’ve already done this in this blog post. Before, when I linked my previous blog post on accessibility, I was implementing a text call-to-action – prompting you to read my other content if you hadn’t already (or if you felt you needed a refresher 😉).

What makes this call-to-action accessible, however, is that it doesn’t just say “click here”, it elaborates on what the link ACTUALLY is.

But why is this important?

  • It provides accessibility to vision impaired people 

Any number of people may use assistive technology like screen readers, but they are particularly useful for people with vision impairments. Screen readers can read text aloud, enabling people to only have to listen to the content, rather than read it themselves. They can read whole pages, or even just a select passage. Screen reader users can also choose to listen to links as a list - meaning they will only hear the link text and not the context of it. 

This means that if I just wrote “click here” as the link before, people might not know what they’re clicking, instead being left out of content that might be incredibly beneficial to them! When you’re writing linked text, try to give a bit of context as to what the link is too - but also don’t write too much, or that’s a whole different problem!

Here’s another example from a different part of the Hello Media Website:

Linked Text for high SEO and accessibility example, Hello Media

  • It is SEO-friendly

Many accessibility practices, such as using descriptive alt text for images and having appropriate linked text, also improve search engine optimisation (SEO), helping your content rank higher in search results. This ‘backend’ kind of work proves to Google, and its algorithm, that your content is relevant, reliable and the best answer to the question someone has posed in the search bar.

So, writing “Click Here” – or some variation of that – is not SEO-friendly as all you’re doing is letting the search engines know that your content contains a link. Not what the link is for, how it’ll help, etc. What you do need is keywords, updated information and the promise that what you're linking is what people need!

If you want more information click here for a beginners guide to search engine optimisation (and take note of the text I used for that link!)

  • It goes beyond legal accessibility requirements

Did you know that in Australia, it’s actually our legal obligation to provide accessible content? According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, Australia has several Acts providing rights and standards for accessibility. The most common is Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, which the Bureau of Internet Accessibility addresses as follows:

“While the law was written before the internet was commonly used, it has been interpreted as applicable to websites and mobile apps. The Australian Human Rights Commission enforces digital accessibility in Australia, and in 2014, the commission issued guidance recommending conformance with Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).”

To comply with Australia's digital accessibility laws, we must follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as much as possible. You can find the definition, criteria and more about the WCAG guidelines by clicking here.

It’s important to also note that while making online presences accessible is a legal requirement, it is also a moral and ethical obligation. Out of the one billion people I mentioned that have some form of disability, 4.4 million of them are Australian adults. These are people you walk by everyday who deserve the same access to content as you.

By ensuring your marketing materials are accessible, you can reach a wider audience, including people with disabilities who might otherwise be excluded. This is helping ensure accessibility is the standard for online content.

  • Creates a better user experience

Accessible marketing materials are often more user-friendly for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Clear design, easy navigation, and inclusive content benefit all users. I know for a fact I often skim read, so being able to get context in links means I don’t have to try and reread a page all over again!

Accessibility is a constantly evolving process, so always try to learn more, be open to feedback, and adapt your content to the changing scene. Here’s a quick guide to put into practice everything we just unpacked:

  • Avoid link text like “Click Here”. Instead, use a full sentence describing what the link is for.

Ensuring the link text can make sense without surrounding context, including the function and purpose of the link, means screen readers can read them no matter their setting.

  • Use a sentence max. 

There is such a thing as too much information, so trust your gut and stick to the basics. If you get stuck, refer back to the links I used in this blog post!

  • Be cautious when linking full URLs.

Use unique link text whenever possible, but if you want to link a URL, try reading it over first and consider those who will be hearing it out loud – no one wants to hear a series of random letters and numbers, especially when you don’t know when they’ll end! If you can’t use unique text, try just implementing the title and website name.

  • Avoid image links.

Even the most tech savvy and abled of us can barely tell when an image is linked, so imagine how tricky it is for vision impaired people or screen readers to know. I know the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ but in this case, without alt text, it's worth ZILCH! If an image must function as a link add in alt text that acknowledges the location and purpose of the link, just as you’d do with a normal text link.

  • Use alt text in linked text.

Yes, even linked text needs alt text (which, having just written that down, is a lot of different texts!). This provides further search engine optimisation AND accessibility for added tools like screen readers.

  • Remember about keyboard navigation.

Ensure that all interactive elements (like our call-to-actions!) can be accessed and activated using keyboard shortcuts alone. This is essential for users with motor disabilities. 

  • Use colour and underline when linking!

This is less for screen readers and more for general accessibility, and is usually a default setting when linking content anyway. However, specially for people with limited colour access, ensuring all links are underlined is crucial to keeping your content as accessible as possible. Also opt for sufficient contrast between text and background colours to enhance readability. 
And finally ... remember the importance of COLOUR. I still too often see websites where we can't even read the text, because (a) it's too small and (b) it's too pale, against an even paler background. This might be aesthetically pleasing to your eye, but it's very displeasing to anyone with a vision impairment. We can all do better! 

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