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Team putting together the puzzle pieces for creating inclusive content

How to increase your audience with inclusive content

When major players like Facebook and YouTube are adapting their platforms, you know change is underway. But the latest top tips to boost engagement and views are so much more than just another trend.

Inclusivity describes the initiative to create or adapt internet content to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of any impairment or disability they may have.

Some companies are making the mistake of thinking that inclusivity doesn’t matter to them. But if raising brand awareness and attracting new customers is important to a business, then inclusivity is an essential part of content strategy. Not only that, accessible content will soon be a requirement by law in the UK.

If one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Microsoft Design, is working with the slogan “Solve for one, extend to many” it is safe to predict that this is a direction many businesses will seek to go in the near future. To stay ahead of the curve, this is what is recommended:

The Purple Pound

In the UK, 1 in 5 people has  a long term impairment or disability. That includes 2 million people with sight loss and 11 million people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Failure to make your brand accessible to this demographic could mean you aren’t engaging with a significant percentage of your potential audience. The disabled community in the UK had a spending power of £249 billion in 2017. The strength of the ‘Purple Pound’ means that investing in inclusivity is not only the right thing to do but offers a worthwhile return.

In a recent post on the topic of accessibility, Facebook mentioned that more than 30 per cent of its users reported difficulty with at least one of the following: seeing, hearing, speaking, organizing thoughts, walking, or grasping with their hands. If you’re advertising on Facebook or using the platform to promote your products or services, you risk alienating many potential or existing customers if you fail to consider their needs in your content.

Considering the needs of your entire audience really matters. In a survey, 71 per cent of viewers said that they would leave a website or stop watching content if it was not accessible to them. Also, the European Disability Forum recently reported that those with disabilities are often early adopters of technology. So excluding those users from discovering your brand could impede your company’s growth, particularly if you’re in the tech industry.

SEO savvy

Another reason to factor inclusivity into your web content is that it’s great for search engine optimisation. Google ranks inclusive content higher in the search results – content which contains elements such as subtitles, alt image text, audio descriptions and visual clarity – meaning you could increase traffic to your website by ensuring your content is inclusive.

When you use subtitles and image descriptions, this added text is further opportunity to target your keywords and drive valuable traffic to your pages.

Plus, your efforts to make your content accessible to all will reduce bounce rates and increase conversions as you engage with new potential customers who couldn’t previously access your brand, and this too will improve your standing in search results.

Required by law

Of course, inclusivity should form part of your business strategy because it makes moral and business sense, but it will also soon become the law.

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that businesses must be making reasonable accommodation for the access of those with impairments that may impede their enjoyment or understanding of internet content. “‘Reasonable accommodation’ means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The UN explains that the way to meet this reasonable accommodation is through ‘universal design.’

In Britain, the resulting EU Web Accessibility Directive became law in September 2018, requiring businesses to work towards becoming compliant to the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. These are a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible, put together by the main international standards organisation for the internet.

As classified by the EU, there are four categories of impairments that businesses should be aware of when producing web content. These are hearing, visual, motor and cognitive. Here we focus on how to use text and audio alternatives to open up your content to those affected by hearing and visual impairments in particular. Here are some of the ways you can begin to make your content compliant:

Subtitles / Closed Captions

Subtitles or closed captions are essential for those with a hearing impairment. However, they are also useful for those for whom English is not their first language, so if you have viewers in foreign markets, subtitles will instantly assist with their understanding.

Even for the population who do not report a hearing impairment, subtitles are a worthwhile investment. 85 per cent of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off. By adding subtitles, you gain another opportunity to share your message and engage your viewers. Evidence shows that videos with captions have a 12 per cent longer viewing time, and it can even help viewers take more in and recall what they’ve seen. This is not only great for advertisements but for e-learning.

Subtitles also form metadata which is scanned by Google for relevant keywords, which will help to rank your website or content for your targeted keywords.

Some sites like YouTube will automatically create subtitles when you upload a video, but they are usually inaccurate and poorly timed, which shows little consideration for your hearing-impaired audience.

A professional subtitling service can either add the subtitles direct to your video so that they play every time your video does. Or a time-coded caption file can be created to upload along with your video, enabling the subtitles to be turned on and off as the viewer desires. Both options are more accurate and effective than automatic caption generation or a simple transcript of the audio that is not timed.

Audio description

Audio description allows those who have visual impairments to enjoy video or image content by listening to it being described.

It was war veteran Rob Long who drew attention to a little-known feature on Twitter and Instagram which allow users to add descriptive captions to their images for those who cannot see them. His tweets on the topic hit a nerve and went viral with over 145,000 shares, showing the importance of inclusivity to audience engagement and brand image.

When describing images, for example, still advertisements or photos on Instagram, your description must be focused on meaning and function, not just on describing what is in the picture. Of course, information should be relayed if it affects meaning, for example, the colour of the sky if the post relates to the weather. There’s no need to include the words “image of” or “photograph of” as this is implied, but be sure to share the feeling of the visual – if it’s funny add humour! Your listeners will be more engaged if they can sense the emotion in what is being described.

For video, your audio description needs to be more descriptive of the action that is taking place, but always consider the meaning and function of what you are describing. Any text that appears on your video should be included in your audio description, and consider multiple speakers with distinctive voices to help clarify what is going on in a scene if it has more than one participant.

As video content becomes more and more important, audio description is essential to convey your message to your visually impaired audience. Even Facebook Live comes with audio description nowadays. A professional audio description agency can record this with professional voice actors that explain what is going on, and fit in with the existing audio of the video, if necessary.

Designed to be read

Clear and simple copy helps people using assistive technology and those who are still learning the language, ensuring your content reaches as many people as possible. Also consider keeping your sentences short for clarity.

Try to avoid whole sentences in caps, they are hard to interpret, but do use camel case for multi-word hashtags: #MatineeMultilingual not #matineemultilingual. Put any hashtags and mentions at the end of the copy to avoid disrupting the flow for someone who is listening to it and use limited emojis. Consider adjusting your phrases to avoid excluding those who cannot see your content, instead of “click here” choose “sign up” or “subscribe.”

When designing your website, advert or other content, consider those for whom colours present a challenge. According to social media tool Hootsuite, 1 in 7 people has a vision impairment that affects their ability to see colour. Did you know, for example, that Facebook is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colourblind?

A high colour contrast will help colour blind viewers and those who are using greyscale. The WCAG recommends a ratio of 4.5 to 1, even higher for smaller text. Avoid green and red or blue and yellow together as these make text very hard to read, and be sure to put text on a solid background.

Finally, don’t rely on colour for meaning, your message may become confused amongst some audiences. It’s also worth considering the cultural implications of certain colours, red is lucky in China but signifies a negative financial trend in Scandinavia. There are website checking tools that will assess your pages for colour blindness, you can practice inclusivity by running new designs through it before pushing your content live.

If you’re adding text to your video, a professional video production agency will be able to navigate these visual pitfalls to ensure your written content is inclusive and on-brand.

With some consideration, your brand’s policy of inclusivity could have a positive impact on your brand reputation, your web presence and ultimately your bottom line, if you are innovative enough to invest in the Purple Pound. Enlisting the help of a professional subtitling or audio description agency like Matinée Multilingual will ensure your brand’s professionalism, message and personality remain intact as you broaden your reach. Get in touch with the team today to see how we can help you make your content inclusive.