Access to online content is a right, not a privilege

Having lived until I was in my 30s as an able-bodied person I learnt very quickly that, when I became disabled, the world is not as accommodating as I once believed wearing my rose tinted glasses.

Access to online content is a right, not a privilege

Since that point, I’ve really become an advocate that accessible content should be for everyone. 


I used to walk into places with ramps and see that as accessible. I’m sure a lot of people do the same.


At first, when I was in a wheelchair, ramps were great, so accessible.


Now I’m out of the chair and walk with a fixed leg orthotic and a stick, a great progress mobility-wise, but not so much at getting into buildings. I’m so bad at slopes! It’s one of my (and I have quite a few!) most hated sights. Being hemiplegic also means I now need a handrail on both sides, one for going up and the other for going down! Yes, I’m a very demanding princess 👑 


So the place is labelled as accessible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean accessible to me. Being accessible should be inclusive of everyone. Now, obviously I can’t go around changing the world and its buildings, no matter how much I’d love to, but what I can do is look at my own digital industry. We’ve been in business since 2006 crafting content creation both online and with video and I questioned is everything we do accessible? 


Similarly to ramps into buildings, I had considered the basic requirements of screen readers, video captions and Alt tags but I’ve learnt so much recently about what it means to be truly accessible with your marketing communication. It’s been a very steep learning curve that I’ve been on but I can answer this now, it’s time to remove those rose tinted glasses, the digital industry doesn’t always consider every disability. It’s time for change. 


Now, I can only advise on my day to day struggles and can’t be an expert in all impairments so I’ve been reaching out to more disabled people to find out about their struggles online. COVID forced us all to shop, work, learn and chat online. A harsh reminder that their struggles weren’t a consideration for many. So did big brands take notice and up their game? Are brands user testing for people with disabilities or are they just following WCAG guidelines and scanners? Of course you can’t 100% cater for all but I’d like to see big brands lead the way in trying to consider the needs of all, not just the many.


The next time you create an app, use it under the table, can you still navigate? Now try with just one hand?


If you make a video, try muting it. Do you still get the same message? 


The next time you build a website, try navigating using only the keyboard. Can you get to all the content in a sensible manner? 


When you next send a tweet, use a screen reader. Does it make sense? 


Next time you look at a brand, imagine you couldn’t see any colours. Does it still resonate? 


Next time you get an email, increase the size to 600%, does the layout break? 


There’s a few little tips that I've seen this month that I hadn’t really considered before. The first would be bionic reading. 


Having a neurologic condition means I struggle with reading. By highlighting letters at the start of a word your brain reads it faster. How easy was that!


Secondly, hashtags. We send so many messages on social media platforms, Twitter is great but LinkedIn still fails to default hashtags to Camel Case. By capitalizing the first letter of each word, firstly it’s easy to understand for someone like myself with cognition issues, but it also means screen readers can interpret into separate words rather than just a string of drivel. #comeonitsnotthatdifficult. #ComeOnItsNotThatDifficult


Finally, timeouts. Understandably, for security purposes, these need to be in place but customers can take time to complete a checkout. Especially if they have problems with motor control, limb loss, paralysis or perhaps they use screen readers. Make the process as quick and easy as possible. Label form fields and inputs well. Use clear ‘submit’ form controls and give users the ability to extend time outs.


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Access to online content is a right, not a privilege. Being disabled can be a pretty lonely place at times, please let's take down the barriers and try to include EVERYONE, not just the majority.