Open Social is dedicated to improving the web accessibility, which refers to providing everyone with the equal chance to access, use, and benefit from the web, regardless of disabilities, special needs, or any other circumstances that could create barriers to entry. In this post, we will outline a few actions that community managers can take to make their community accessible to everyone.

Why Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is an increasingly important resource and helps ensure equal opportunities and equal access for everyone. The UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities even recognized the access to information on the Web as a basic human right. The benefits of accessibility can also be argued from a business perspective. Let’s take a look at the facts: 360 million people worldwide suffer from hearing disabilities, and 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. These numbers alone demonstrate that a percentage of your website visitors may struggle accessing your content, if not made accessible.

A common misconception of accessibility is that it’s solely designed for those with disabilities. The truth is, everyone benefits from web accessibility. Your audience and conversions will increase if you have accessible content on different platforms and in different ways.

1 Providing Contrast

Colors can make or break your website. They are not just helpful for customizing your website or differentiating your community from competitors but it can also make your website more accessible. How? It’s simple. Colours provide a contrast that improves the readability of your website by distinguishing between background and text. For example, when choosing colors for links, make sure that the contrast ratio between the background and text is more than 4,5:1. Use this contrast tool to check if you have the right contrast.

 

Example of color contrast on webpages
Example of a weak contrast ratio (top) and a strong contrast ratio (bottom; 4,5:1)

 

2 Alternative Text

Photos are always a great addition to your community since they’re visually-pleasing and highly informative (some say a photo is worth 1000 words). In order for everyone to benefit from an image, add an alternative image text. This alternative text provides an image description for the blind and visually impaired and will help them understand the relationship between image and text.

Besides adding an alternative text, you should avoid having text in the image itself. This is because screen readers, machines that read text out loud, will not be able to identify and read it. If you need to have text in your image, then add it to alternative image text as well. Note: if users want to add images in their timeline posts, there is currently no option to add an alternative text. Therefore, users should include a description of the image in their post in order to increase accessibility.

 

Alternative Image Text Example
Add alternative text to images

 

3 Using CAPS

Writing in capital letters (caps) is a great way to grab someone’s attention in messages, but they can be confusing to those using screen readers. Therefore, avoid writing your text in caps. Screen readers will relay capitalized text letter for letter to the listener, which will make it harder to understand for the blind and visually impaired.

Caps are generally seen as disruptive for anyone reading text on a website or community, and this is especially the case for people with dyslexia. The shape and height of letters in capitalized text are very similar, almost mimicking a single rectangle to those that find it hard to read. This makes the distinction and recognition of letters more difficult.

4 Writing Copy

One of the best ways to ensure that your text is readable to users is by having a concise, easy-to-follow structure. Start by creating an outline of your text before you write, thereby ensuring a solid structure. Use headings, lists, and quotes to call attention to important parts of the text. These habits will really help users with any visual disabilities to read the text.

Open Social has a feature that can help structure your text well and is known as the WYSIWYG-editor available for Topics, Events, Groups, and Profiles. The WYSIWYG-editor allows you build your text with headings and prioritize information.

 

WYSIWIG module of Open Social
What you see is what you get’ editor for building text structure

 

Well-written and structured text help users understand what information can be found on the page and how that information is organized. Clear and descriptive headings help users find information quicker and understand the relationships between different parts of the content.

Conclusion

The accessibility of your community depends on three main things: Software (code), Design, and Content. In a community, content is not always only created by the site manager, but also by users. It’s important that site managers provide a good example and teach other users to keep the actions mentioned in this article in mind. In the end, the community needs to work together to make sure that the community is accessible and readable for everyone.

  1. Check the contrast of your colors on your Open Social community.
  2. Always add an alternative text for images. If there is no possibility to add alt text, then add a description of the image in the text.
  3. Try to avoid CAPITALIZED text.
  4. Have easy-to-follow text structure by using headings, lists, and quotes.

Have you ever considered improving your web accessibility? What changes did you make? Let us know in the comments!

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