White woman with blonde hair in black shirt and gray background signing about accessibility.

Accessibility: What is it and how can we do better

Let's talk about Accessibility. Did you you know? I went to school for my second Bachelor's degree in ASL Interpreting. My "why"? My best friend, my inspiration for strength and perseverance, my sweet momma. For over 20 years, my mom was a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in mainstream schools, fluent in ASL. A few years ago, she got sick and lost a great deal of her hearing. Already fluent in ASL, she found it was best best to communicate with SimCom (using spoken English and ASL together).

To be able to communicate with my mom better and ensure she was able to partake in all of the conversations we had as a family, I decided to learn more about interpreting and pursued a degree in ASL-English Interpretation. While I am not currently interpreting in the community, I still hope to use my experience and my responsibility to spread awareness about accessibility to others so people like my mom have the same access to all content on the internet.

What is Accessibility?

According to USaccessibility.gov, "Accessibility focuses on how a disabled person accesses or benefits from a site, system or application. Accessibility is an important part of the designing your site and should be considered throughout the development process". If you are completely unaware of accessibility and the guidelines set forth by the ADA in1990, I urge you to read a few of these articles to best grasp the concept and better understand the importance of why everyone should be implementing accessible practices into their online activity.

There are many ways that myself and others can be more inclusive for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and visually impaired within our communities, especially as photographers and content creators. If you are curious about how to make your content more accessible for ALL viewers, I urge you to use these steps when posting to your social platforms, updating your website, and hosting events to ensure your content is accessible and your audience is all included.

Provide Captions

for all videos you post on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other social platforms.

Ever watch a video on Instagram stories with the sound off and the speaker is moving their head and throwing their hands in front of their mouth? Ever seen a video like this without any captions? How frustrating, right? Now imagine this is how you have to watch every.single. video that continues to play on your stories and feed. You also can't just "tap" to turn on the sound in order to understand what they are trying to say. The message is worthless, right? Be sure to include captions. in your video and/or a full transcript in your post content for all spoken videos you post. This allows EVERYONE to "hear" what you have to say, with or without volume. Curious about alt text and image captions, here is an example!

Young child with brown hair, orange sunglasses, blue jeans, red and orange plaid shirt standing in front of white flowers. He has one hand on his hips and the other pushing his glasses up on his left eye. He is standing on green grass with a small orange pumpkin behind him in front of a white house.

Ensure All Images Have Alt Text Or Descriptions...

and all text is high contrast with its background.

For everyone posting photos on their social media and websites, especially my fellow photographers out there! Be sure to include alt text or image captions that allow for visually impaired persons to access your content! Fine lines, color shading, and low contrasting images can be difficult to decipher the objects within for those who may be color blind and/or have visual impairment. Providing a brief write up to explain what is happening in your photos, whether it be in the photos alt text or caption, can help bridge the gap for anyone who may have a hard time viewing the content on a computer screen.

Additionally, if you are designing a website, brochure, or other print/digital item that contains text, be sure the contrast between the letters and the background is sharp and the content can be seen. Putting light pink text on an off-white background doesn't allow for your text to be visible and clear for any eyes. Be sure your text is legible.

Be Sure to Include Options...

for people to request interpreters or other means of accessibility for your events.

Hosting any retreats, events, live podcasts, or any other events that will require people to have full accessibility to your voice and/or visuals to participate? ASK who may need some accommodations in order to participate fully. If you are hosting a retreat and someone requires an interpreter, make sure it's available for them when they arrive. If they would like a synopsis/summary of what you will be talking through so they can follow along from their seat, be sure to ASK and make the information available to them so they can have 100% access to the valuable content you are sharing. Imagine you are spending all this time and money to hone in on your craft and you arrive for the event knowing that you have a hard time hearing in a crowded room. The person talks so soft and low that only the first row of participants can capture what they are saying. That would make you pretty mad and feel left out and the content inaccessible. Don't make someone NOT attend your incredible event that they are dying to be at because YOU didn't ask what kind of accommodations could be made to include everyone.

It is so important to me to continue working on advocating for accessible media, especially in today's growing online social environment. If you have questions about how to be more accessible, be sure to ask! Ask members of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Blind communities how you can support them and how they prefer to consume your content! It's about learning and advocating for equal access for all.