Disability Inclusivity, the Visually Impaired, and Your Content

You may have noticed there aren’t many pretty pictures or images or graphics hanging up on the Bloomers blog’s walls. There’s a reason for that, and it has everything to do with disability inclusivity.

A Disability Inclusivity Exercise

Let’s do a little exercise, shall we?

Your blog is very image and graphic heavy. Everyone oohs and ahhs over your painstakingly produced photos. Your professional headshots. The infographics, inspirational quote graphics, and/or videos that you’ve spent hours creating.

Your social media is just as colorful, just as creative, just as visually stunning and impressive. Again, accolades over how wonderfully you show off all your products, or get followers’ attention with all your pretty pictures.

Now, go to your browser. Turn on your screen reader. Open up your website or your Twitter profile. Close your eyes. Scroll the page.

What do you hear?

That deafening silence is just what your visually impaired visitors hear, too. Your visually captivating content isn’t practicing disability inclusivity at all.

Disability Inclusivity and Images

To make all those photos and images and graphics meet disability inclusivity requirements, they all have to have their alt text captions added. Your videos need constant narration of all the action, all the scenery, all the “stuff” that isn’t discernable with your eyes closed.

I see so many “explainer” or educational videos where the presenter is using a whiteboard, for example. They write stuff down while talking about it, and then later, say things like “when we go back to this step…..” but never say which step they are referring to.

I also know of so many coaches using inspirational quotes to create wonderful, beautiful graphic images, but never use a single alt image caption.

And there are countless social media feeds filled with images and videos and graphics of all sorts without a single “explainer caption” to accompany them. (We’ll get into this in a minute.)

All of that makes all those lovely images completely useless to the visually disabled/sight impaired user or visitor who relies on a screen reader to surf the Internet.

Disability Inclusive Images and Why They Are Important

You may be wondering why it’s all that important. I mean, after all, visually impaired people are used to missing out on sights, right?

They shouldn’t have to. They should expect better.

Especially from health and wellness providers like you.

Disability inclusivity isn’t just a “nice thing” to do. It’s a right, not a privilege. It’s also valuable for your biz, believe it or not.

Visually impaired adults in the US number in the millions. And they have billions in disposable income at their discretion. So, which chiropractor, or spa, or herbal tea company do you think they are going to buy from? The guy whose site is set up for their screen reader, so they don’t miss a single detail? Or yours, with all its pretty pictures or videos, but without captions, without narration, no way for them to decipher what’s going on?

How much of their money are you leaving on the table?

How to Add Disability Inclusivity to Your Images

There are several simple things you can do to add some disability inclusivity to the images on your website, online catalog, videos, and social media. We’ll look at each one individually.

Alt Tag Text

You’ve already seen me mentioning alt tag captions. When you upload an image to your website or blog, you are given the option to add an alt text tag.

This tag remains invisible to all but the screen readers, so it’s not going to break up the flow of your lovely content. But it will allow the visually impaired user to get a brief description of your pretty pictures.

A simple caption like “purple and black butterfly” – that’s Buffy, the Bloomers logo – allows screen readers to know what’s going on in the image the visually impaired user can’t see. It takes all of a few seconds to do, but it makes a world of difference to your screen reader dependent visitor.

Text Captions

I was taught about this method of disability inclusivity by an Australian disabled disability advocate I follow on Twitter, Carly Findlay. She often posts photos of herself in her brightly colored, gorgeous fashion choices.

So that her quirky, fun, and yes, beautiful wardrobe does not go “unseen” by her sight impaired followers and friends, she simply adds a caption to each post. (She does it for all her photo posts. It’s just easier to use her fabulous fashion posts for an example.)

The post is usually accompanied by her trademark quote: “I wore this today/tonight and felt fucking fabulous!” And then, underneath, there will be something like, “A smiling woman wearing a red, green, and yellow flowered dress with white flats and a yellow hat with a large red bow.”

Simple, but effective. Simple, but inclusive.

Now apply this to your social media posts. Your catalog photos. Your blog images. A simple written caption underneath each image. Some blog platforms actually let you add one right to the image when you upload it. Again, it takes a few seconds, but it makes a world of difference.

Conscious Narration

Remember that white board video cockup I mentioned earlier? There’s a simple way to fix it: consciously narrate your videos.

Tell us what we’re supposed to be seeing. Tell us when you point to something on the whiteboard, or the splitscreen shot, or whatever. Say what you are doing while you are doing it. “Now, I’m going to take my wooden spoon and stir this all up together.” (Yes, foodie and nutrition YouTubers, I’m looking at you….)

If the video really doesn’t need a play by play, add a written description, similar to a caption, and simply add it before or after the vid. “A video tour of the meditation studio at the spa. The walls are light blue, with a cream color for the doors and windows. There are oriental patterned rugs and large comfy pillows on the floor and a view of the trees and grass outside through the three windows.”

Doesn’t take much, but the disability inclusivity factor of your videos just went through the roof.

Fewer Images

This last suggestion may make you cringe, especially if you take pride in your visuals, but making a few fewer of them can make a large difference, as well.

You don’t have to strip your blog bare, as I have done here at Bloomers. But do you really need a dozen or more per post? (Again, looking at you, foodie folks….) Does every social media post need to have an image attached? Can you speak to us without using pretty pictures just once in a while?

Using fewer images makes your page much more screen reader user friendly. (On an SEO note, it also makes it load faster, too.) And you don’t have to worry about figuring out an alt tag text or caption for as many of them, too. Saves you some time and effort when creating your content.

Disability Inclusivity and Pop-Ups

One last bit about visually impaired disability inclusivity and your content – GET RID OF ALL THOSE DAMN POP-UPS!

(Yes, I’m shouting….with good reason. Even sighted folks find all those pop-ups annoying and intrusive. Stop. Just stop.)

Imagine being a sight impaired person whose screen reader may not (most do not) be “seeing” your pop-up. Suddenly, they can’t continue with the article, or leave the page, or understand what’s going on, all because your popup about signing up for your freebie, or scheduling a call, or whatever you’re offering to keep them on the page, is blocking their “view”.

Pop-ups are the least disability inclusive thing you can put on a page or site. So just remove them. Put your offer on a side bar, or at the top of the page, so it can’t be missed. The in-your-face interruptions will end for the sighted folks, and the “wtf is going on?” confusion will end for the visually impaired among us.

Disability Inclusivity and You

I’m horrid at writing captions and alt text. I can do it for others for hours, if need be, but when it comes to doing it for myself, my brain freezes and I come up blank. Or so sparse as to not be useful. Or so long-winded as to be annoying. (I imagine my screen reader friends muttering “Just get it over with, so we can all move on….”)

That’s the main reason why there are few images here at Bloomers, to be honest. I’m also terrible at choosing which ones to use. And I hate creating them – it’s torture as I am artistically challenged when it comes to Canva and photoshop. I’m positive crap with them.

Maybe you aren’t. Most of you probably aren’t. So, all I can ask is that you make them more inclusive. Disability inclusivity doesn’t have to take hours. It doesn’t have to be a painful process.

All it takes it a little time, a little thought, and a little curtesy for your fellow human beings. You’ve got that, right?

If you need help with your disability inclusivity efforts, or have questions, contact me. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

Till next time, always look your “fucking fabulous” best!