The disability community continues to be underrepresented and undervalued in advertising, on Social Media, and in Marketing in general.
Full transparency, I am hearing impaired, and have worn hearing aids for nearly 10 years now (since I was 40) but have struggled with my hearing since I was 11.
My husband broke his neck 15 years ago and his injury is at C4/5 level, classified as an Asia A Quadriplegic (paralysed from the neck down) so to say we live and breathe in the disability space, would be putting it mildly! That said, I don't for a moment pretend that I know what it's like for others out there, or that my hearing impairment is the same as anyone else's. We're all going through life, experiencing it differently, with varying degrees of challenges.
I am PASSIONATE about the topic of accessibility (arrghh, don't get me started on able-bodied people who park in wheelchair accessible carpark spaces!!) and am hyper aware of invisible disabilities, so YES it's a minefield out there, and thank goodness things are CHANGING (long overdue!) but it's inspiring to see advocates and change-makers raising their voices, being heard, and the flow on effect of that.
In this blog I'm not talking about accessibility or disability in general, but rather how we as business owners and marketers can make small tweaks, to improve inclusivity and accessibility in our advertising, marketing, website and social media. It's easy, you just have to change the way you think about it!
Nearly 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability – yet historically, the portrayal of people with disabilities in marketing has rendered them all but invisible. Nothing about us without us expresses the conviction that people with disabilities must always be included from the beginning of any planning process and should never simply be an after-thought. Click here to read Google's Inclusive Marketing Playbook.
"Committing to accessibility in marketing breaks down barriers, which is better for all users."
4 ways you can be more ACCESSIBLE on Social Media
Social media is NOISY. There are billions of people using various platforms, there are changes and updates happening every day, there are trends and trolls and groups and rules and it's intense! People are either seemingly obsessively trying to keep up, or overwhelmed and feeling left behind, trying to stay up with the latest trending changes. Some users are simply looking to be entertained by funny videos, memes or to discover and learn new things in personal-interest groups and on business pages.
The majority of people can keep up with all the Social Media NOISE, but for some people with disabilities, it can take more time and effort for them to get access and absorb the information.
Fortunately, there are increasing ways to make consumption of digital marketing, internet in general, social media etc EASIER with the use of accessibility tools, which are often particularly useful for people with vision or hearing-impairments ... because we (actually, I only speak for myself here!) can suffer from FOMO when I don't understand what's going on around me!! Ensuring that we can all experience as close to what the actual content is about, is super important.
(1) ALT TEXT / IMAGE DESCRIPTIONS are VITAL!
Alt Text (short for Alternative Text) aka Image descriptions are an accessibility tool that describes what is happening in the picture or graphic, and is read aloud. Great for people with vision impairment, or someone with dyslexia, blindness or other reading impairments.
Include details in your Alt Text to help people grasp the visible imagery and also the sense of feeling involved.
(2) TURN YOUR CAPTIONS ON for VIDEO!
Captions are a hearing-impaired persons (well, ME at any rate!) best friend! I have captions on EVERYTHING! Whether it's socials, news on youtube, or movies on netflix, the captions mean I know what's going on, and don't have to have hte sound turned up to 100% which would not only have my neighbours calling the noise police but my family wearing noise-cancelling head phones, too! So, be a good human, make your content accessible to those who use captioning. If you're writing your own captions, include super detailed and accurate descriptions of the video that's being watched. It's not just appreciated, it's needed.
People with vision impairment also benefit from captioning, as screen readers can be incorporated with this software, also.
(3) Use CamelCase for your hashtags!
Firstly, in case you don't know what CamelCase is, "CamelCase is a way to separate the words in a phrase by making the first letter of each word capitalized and not using spaces. It is commonly used in web URLs, programming and computer naming conventions. It is named after camels because the capital letters resemble the humps on a camel's back. Common examples include "iPhone" and "eBay""
It isn't widely used in social media platforms to write hashtags, but it should be!
Screen readers that are often utilised by people with vision impairment can read and recognise words faster, as each of them already starts with an upper case letter. Let's face it - Hashtags are tricky to read for anyone, so let's start a new trend of CamelCase hashtags - we'll all be better off for it!
For example #hellomedia isn't reader-friendly until CamelCase turns it into #HelloMedia ~ which is a whole lot easier to understand. Reduce confusion, embrace accessibility.
(4) Be careful how you use EMOJIS!
If you've read many of my blogs, or watched many of my digital marketing webinars, you'll know that I LOVE EMOJI! Emojis add so much life to social media posts, newsletters and text messages, and if a picture speaks 1000 words, then emojis speak 1000 feelings!
They're basic picture representations of people, animals, places and things, and can be used at the front, end, or in between words or sentences. OR use them as I often do, as the complete comment or reaction!
Too many different emojis in a line, will be bamboozling for a screenreader! Many people with blindness and low vision use screen readers, also known as text-to-speech, to interpret information on the screen. When reading a message with an emoji, a description of the emoji is read out loud. For example, laughing emoji, screen readers may read it aloud as “laughing face.” Imagine you have 5 laughing crying emoji's in a row, it'll be pretty frustrating for someone using text-to-speech to heard read to them, "yes exclamation mark, laughing crying emoji, laughing crying emoji, laughing crying emoji, laughing crying emoji, laughing crying emoji, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, exclamation mark" as an example!
Perhaps try using just one or two to get your point across! (note directed at ME! 😅😆😜!!!)
Everyone deserves to have access to all information whether via the internet or other sources, just as everyone has the capacity to contribute to society. Accessibility and disability inclusive marketing are good for all people, and when everyone can fully access and engage with your products, content, and experiences, it’s good for business.
Brands that prioritise accessibility as a human and business imperative will find that it opens up their work to a more diverse audience. Committing to accessibility in marketing breaks down barriers and enables brands to be better in their work, which is better for all users.
(The following are some snippets from a fabulous article - resourced below) which I encourage you to read.
Nothing about us without us
Disabled people are their own experts, which is why it’s so important to bring in their voices from the start. Often this involves dedicating the resources required to do accessible marketing right, such as training and support for internal teams.
Account for intersectionality
For marketing to feel truly inclusive and accessible, brands must think about people with disabilities holistically, and consider the full spectrum of markers that comprise identity. Beyond disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and education level are just a few of the additional ways that people may identify themselves.
Failing to recognize and reflect intersectionality in your messages runs the risk of reducing disabled people’s multidimensional identities into oversimplified stories that can perpetuate stereotypes, rather than uplifting them. An excellent rule of thumb is to always opt for nuanced narratives, preferably ones that come directly from the people who are part of the narrative.
Accessibility is a mindset, not a box to check
Best practices for disability inclusion and accessibility marketing change over time as technology evolves and culture shifts. It’s an ever-evolving journey that depends heavily on the needs of people with disabilities. Like other forms of inclusion, accessibility should be a constant commitment that’s embedded into every aspect of your brand campaigns — from conception to execution, and beyond.
Resources (and a brilliant read!):
KR Liu, Google’s head of brand accessibility, shares her personal story and why accessible marketing is critical for every brand CLICK HERE to read.
Google's Inclusive Marketing Playbook