Happy Disability Pride Month!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was voted into law on July 26, 1990, and you’ll see celebrations in cities across the United States throughout the month. Disability Pride is about celebrating the lives of people with disabilities and further advocating for their rights.
The umbrella of disability is huge and there isn’t a panacea for making the world more accessible. But when it comes to written communication, there are concrete things we can do that work for a lot of people.
Make accessibility a priority, not an afterthought
Whenever you’re creating new materials, it’s important to think about accessibility from the early brainstorming stages all the way through final production. This will help more people use it from the get-go, and it’ll save you time when you don’t have to redo content later.
Whether your creating digital content or print materials, consider:
Font size, style, and color
Use easy to read fonts and emphasize important information with bolded text rather than italics.
Avoid fonts smaller than a size 12, especially for written materials. If you know you’re writing for a population where lower vision is common, like older adults, you can use size 14 or 16 for body text.
Headings are important on several levels. As a writer, using descriptive headings will help you know that you're organizing information logically.
Readers can more easily absorb information that’s grouped clearly. Headings also make it easier to skim for key information. Write headings that succinctly describe the main idea of that section.
Finally, people who use assistive technology like screen readers use headings to navigate the text.
Choosing images that support meaning can go a long way in helping people understand and remember new information. When writing about something you want your audience to do, use photographs of people doing the desired action.
If you’re creating web content, take time to get familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Even when being proactive, guidance changes over time. At Literacy Works, we’re continually learning more about how to improve accessibility of our work. At the time I’m writing this, we’re working on revisions to make our website more accessible. Having a system for evaluating and changing your content is just as important as being proactive.
Make it as easy as possible for people to ask for what they need
It’s impossible to predict everyone’s needs and there will be times when people need to ask for accommodations and modifications in order to make resources or services more accessible.
Part of creating welcoming and safe spaces is making it easy for people to ask for what they need.
One approach is to ask everyone on your registration or intake forms what you can do to make things more accessible to them. If you give people the space to share that information, those who need it will use it.
It’s also incredibly helpful to be upfront about accessibility so people don’t have to ask. You could have a place on your website to share examples of modifications you’ve been able to make in the past. On your website and promotional materials, say if your space is wheelchair accessible, has stairs, etc.
You can save people a lot of time and anxiety by sharing this information upfront.
If you’re looking for more guidance on making content more accessible, check out webinar, Plain Language and Accessibility: Moving Beyond Compliance.