Like many online marketers, you might assume that
altering your copy for disabled users—specifically those with visual
impairments—isn’t worth it.
But if your content doesn’t meet basic accessibility guidelines, you’re missing out on a bigger market than you think.
Numbers don’t lie: According to the American Foundation for the Blind and Statistics
Canada, there are 12.8 million blind and print-restricted Americans and
2.8 million similarly disabled Canadians. And with an aging population, expect that number to rise.
The disabled love to surf: Almost half the disabled in North America maintain their
independence by using the web. In fact, they spend more time logged on
than most nondisabled users.
Accessibility applies to everyone: Make your content easy to read for the cognitively and visually impaired, and you’ll make it more readable for everyone who visits your site.
So here’s what to do.
How to Write for Screen Readers
The visually impaired use applications called "screen readers" to listen to your content.
So to make your words accessible to this group, you’ll need to cater to their tools.
You can do this with a few simple tweaks:
Use the clearest, simplest language possible: Small words. Short sentences. And skip the jargon. As just one example, you
might think "homepage" looks tighter and more readable than "home
page." But many screen readers will mispronounce it if you don’t break
Write clear link descriptions: Linked phrases should be
short, and their meanings should be clear—even out of context. "Click here" doesn’t help someone using a screen reader. Be
specific: Makeup tips. Lawnmowers. Baby names. You get the picture.
"Front load" your sentences and paragraphs: The visually impaired scan your content just like any other reader, and
they’ll skip ahead if they don’t hear what they’re after within the first few words.
Write text for your sounds and images:
But don’t go overboard with your coding. The last thing someone wants
to hear is "decorative bullet image" every time you use a bullet point.
Tag your initialisms: Unless you want screen-reader users to hear "ibbum" instead of IBM, code your abbreviations appropriately.
remember, accessible content doesn’t have to be clunky. By writing for
screen readers, you’ll be making your content more accessible for all web readers.
Want to make your writing concise, scannable and accessible? Learn how with our free 25-page e-book, Breakthrough Web Writing.