6 Tips for Digital Inclusion
Reviewing our website and its content, I realize that I am responsible for fostering a digital inclusion mindset. As I work through the old website, I have learned a few simple things I would like to share with you that can kickstart a practical change toward digital inclusion.
1. Normalize web-accessibility
Think of your website in terms of a building. If your website were an office tower, you would likely have attempted to remove the barriers to entry and navigation. You would have installed automated door openers, removed stairs or provided some other form of accessible entry, and you would include other forms of assistance with modified signage.
This is how you should think about your website. Have you ever lost the ability to use your mouse when surfing the web, leaving you with just your keyboard to get around? Try that on your current website. How difficult is it for you to find the information you need on your website?
2. Provide alternatives
I started my career in direct-mail marketing. I sent out hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail in my time. To have a prospect take a specific action, I made it as easy as possible for them to do so. In the old days, I wanted prospects to pick up the telephone and call a customer service representative. So, I put the toll-free phone number in a prominent place. However, I knew people like me did not like speaking on the telephone, so I designed order forms that could be sent back by mail or fax.
The same applies to your website. Make it easy to navigate directly through your website without the need to interact with another human. And make it just as easy to contact a human, if required.
3. Use inclusive language
I have written a few articles about inclusive language before. In those articles, I talked about idioms that are racist or sexist and that need to be removed from your vocabulary. When it comes to digital inclusion, I am talking about ensuring that your language is simple, straightforward, and well-organized.
I have a bit of a learning challenge, so when I compose emails, articles, or memos, I review the document using text-to-speech technology. It helps me to catch my mistakes (when I remember to use them). Using this technology made me realize that there are people out there that use similar solutions to help them navigate the web.
When it comes to your website, keep your language as simple as possible. Do not use jargon and acronyms. Keep your language clear and written for the audience you are trying to reach.
4. Rethink your content structure
Directly related to the previous tip is to look at how you lay out your content. Break up large blocks of text into smaller chunks. Divide up the text using headers. Layout your page straightforwardly and logically so that it flows through the content.
5. Use alt-text and/or alt-descriptions
If you need to include images, ensure that you include the alt-text field. There is also an alt-description option that gives more detail and is helpful for more complex illustrations, such as graphs or charts.
Related to this is how you lay out your data in tables. Ensure your data is laid out within a table so the screen reader can be navigated logically.
Moreover, ensure that you provide proper column headings and row headers (if applicable).
6. Descriptive labels in forms
Remember when I said that I used to lay out my order forms so that they were easy to fill out to be faxed back? The same can be said of online forms. Ensure the form only includes the information you need to process the request. Make sure the form is laid out with a simple and logical flow. And something that I tend to skip but will be adding to all my forms in the future is descriptive labels.
Descriptive labels indicate the purpose of the form and its respective sections and clarify how to operate it correctly. None of my suggestions are revolutionary. This information is gleaned from a variety of sources and experiences. Like most such content, this article is meant to get you to think about everyday things from someone else’s perspective.
This is a complicated world, and we will make mistakes. But each day, we can try to make it a better, easier, and more comfortable place for others to live in.