What is Digital Inclusion?
Digital Inclusion is an umbrella term for the ability to access and use information and communication technologies. This can be something as fundamental as ensuring people have the basic literacy skills to read a web page, or something as specific as using alt tags on your images so people using screen readers know what is in the picture.
What Does Digital Inclusion Mean for Bloggers?
When you consider that a third of small to medium businesses in the UK don't even have a website, and some 9% of the UK adult population (c. 5.9 million people) has never used the internet, bloggers are already doing their bit for inclusion. We're online, we're web literate, and, between us, we're churning out oceans of useful and / or entertaining content for people to access.
But, in truth, many of us could be doing more to make that content accessible - even after all the promo work that accompanies your average blog post!
Blogging for Web Accessibility
Web Accessibility, as Wikipedia helpfully tells us, "refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality."
Under UK law (Equality Act 2010) websites must be accessible to disabled users, and the general consensus is that this means hitting at least Level A of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Don't worry - so long as your HTML is correct, and you're not stuck in the '90s with autoplay music you can't switch off, or manically flashing images, you're at Level A.
Going further is well worth considering though. Because making your blog more accessible isn't just a nice thing to do, it will help you attract - and keep! - readers.
How Can I Make My Blog Accessible?
One of the easiest things you can do is check out how accessible your blog already is. WAVE, the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, will give you a run down of the problems. The likelihood is that you will not be able to fix every single one, but just making a few small changes could make a big difference to people visiting your blog.
Here are 10 tips to get you started:
#10. You want good contrast between your text and its background; in other words, darker text on a light background, or lighter on a dark background. Whichever one you go for, some people will prefer the other way. If you're on Wordpress, you can get the accessibility plugin which will provide a toolbar to toggle between contrast and adjust font size. If you're not, don't worry too much as this can be done via the browser.
#9. Don't put text over a busy background, it will be difficult for everyone to read.
#8. Try to avoid underlining, italics ,and ALL CAPS where possible, and use bold instead. Highlighting keywords in bold has also been proven to increase reading comprehension, so it's a win-win.
#7. Research suggests that the actual font style isn't all that important, though sans serif fonts (e.g. calibi, arial, tahoma) generally come out slightly ahead on the readability scale. Just don't make your main body font too fancy - if you want to use something a bit different, save it for titles and headings. The recommended minimum font size is 12pts.
#6. Text is easiest to read when it is left aligned; centered text makes paragraph beginnings irregular, while justified text creates variable character spacing. Both can make your post more difficult to read.
#5. Major factors which impact on the readability of text are the character and line spacing. It's the same as handwriting - cramped, tightly packed writing is more difficult to read. The optimal range for line spacing, otherwise known as line height, is 1.3 to 1.7. (I'm using 1.4) Another thing you might consider is slightly increasing your character spacing, i.e. the distance between each of your letters.
#4. Images are wonderful, but not everyone will be able to see them. Alt tags are not just another place to put SEO keywords, they should explain what the image is. Sometimes you are going to want to present text in image format - infographics, for example - so use your alt tags to tell people what you're doing. If possible, have a text version. Similarly, try and include a transcript or summary of audio and video content. The latter can also benefit from closed captions.
#3. Links are an important part of any blog, but think about your anchor text. I'm so guilty of using 'click here' and the like, but really I should be using text which gives people some idea of where the link is about to take them.
#2. Another thing to consider is your 'target' attribute. If your page automatically opens in a new tab it can be disorientating. One solution might be to include 'opens in a new tab' in your anchor text or link title. If the link is internal, you could consider adding a 'skip link' to the top of the page, allowing people using screen readers or keyboard navigation to avoid your navigation bar and get straight to the main content. WebAIM has a guide to this, though it's something I still need to do! CSS positioning elements are slowly eliminating the need for skip links, but it depends on how your page is structured.
#1. If at all possible, avoid CAPTCHA in your comment section. If you do need it, check out some of these sweet alternatives.
For more like this, check out my blogging guides: