Web Accessibility Checklist for Content Creators & Editors

I'm Caitlin

I'm Caitlin

I work with online service providers, course creators and community leaders to create digital experiences that are delightful, engaging, and smooth as buttah.

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What Is Web Accessibility and why does it matter?

Web accessibility (or digital accessibility) is the practice of making content that lives online available to – and usable by – the widest possible audience. If you’re in the online business space, think websites, downloadable PDFs, marketing emails, video content, etc.

1 in 4 people in the US experiences some form of disability (source) spanning a wide range of experiences like deafness, physical tremors, and learning disabilities. Add to that people whose abilities are declining with age, people who are recovering from temporary injuries, and people with situational barriers like limited internet access or low bandwidth, and you can start to see how widespread the need for digital accessibility is. 

Accessibility is a team effort, and each employee or contractor adds a little fairy dust to the equation – including you. The rest of this article will help you empathize with the experiences of both of your stakeholders: the online business owners who hire you and the people with disabilities you’re designing for. Then we’ll expand your accessibility toolbox with tips, tricks and resources that are reasonably easy to slide into your already existing tech stack and workflow. Let’s dive in!

Examples of accessible – or not so accessible – experiences

Example #1

Jason Holt demonstrates how he navigates the internet using a screen reader:

Example #2

Jeff Johnson demonstrates how age-related changes in motor control affect website use:

Example #3

Jim Byrne talks with Ruby Mooney about what accessibility issues irritate her the most:

Want a few more examples? Click here to read about the online shopper with color blindness, the wannabe traveler with motor control issues, and the online-course student with dyslexia.


In a society where checking email, watching videos, and sharing on social media is the norm, everyone deserves equal access to digital spaces. And by providing that access, we aren’t just supporting people with disabilities: Accessible features give all of us a flexible, supportive experience.
Think of…

  • The movie buff that enjoys foreign films by way of closed captions,
  • The desk worker relying on keyboard commands while their wrist injury heals
  • The student with slow internet reading the lecture transcript when the video won’t load
  • The grandma magnifying her screen to read messages from her grandkids

Your Client’s Perspective & How You Can Help

Our clients are coming at accessibility with two main goals:

  • Risk management – In the US we have a law called the Americans With Disabilities Act, or “The ADA”, which says places of public accommodation need to be accessible. In recent years it’s been deemed to apply to websites. And with an awareness of digital accessibility on the rise (yay!) there’s been a trend of trolling law firms filing suits against people for not having accessible websites. (ick…) Having an accessible online presence helps them avoid getting sued. If this is news to you, check out Web Accessibility 101 for Online Businesses & Content Creators to get the scoop.

     

  • Inclusion – They want to be available to the widest possible audience, whether it’s for sales reasons, PR reasons, ethical reasons, or all of the above. This goal is less compliance focused and more customer experience focused.

 

And they have a few options for meeting those goals:

  1. They could hire a digital accessibility specialists to audit and remediate accessibility issues. This can be cost prohibitive for smaller businesses, and it’s typically a one-time thing so they’ll still need ongoing accessibility support.

     

  2. They could use an accessibility overlay. There are many automated scanners, widgets, plugins, and apps that claim to find and fix accessibility issues, but they are incomplete solutions at best and scams at worst. If you’re curious for more info on that, read: Why Accessibility Widgets Are Not Enough.

     

  3. Hire contractors or employees that create with accessibility in mind. Creating accessibly in the first place means there’s less to fix later on, and keeps them on top of their accessibility initiatives long term. This is where you come in!

An Accessible Accessibility Checklist

Use this framework to support you in making accessible choices when updating a blog, designing emails, and all that other content creation jazz that comes with online business.

(To be clear, following these steps will not make a website ADA compliant. This checklist is designed to help contractors and employees make accessible choices when creating content for online businesses, thus increasing the genuine accessibility of that business in a sustainable and ongoing way.)

  • Color – Use high contrast colors so your text is easy to read, even by people with limited sight (did you know a 60 year old needs about 3x as much light as a 16 year old to see similarly?) and don’t rely on color to convey meaning.

     

  • Titles – Make sure every page has a clear title and uses descriptive headings (that are properly formatted as H1, H2, H3, etc) to add structure to your content. This will help it be understood by A.I. tools (and boost SEO!)

     

  • Text – Use plain language: shorter sentences and commonly used words with fewer syllables.

  • Links – Underline all hyperlinks so readers aren’t relying on color indicators, and make it clear what will happen if someone clicks the link.

     

  • Audio/Video – Add a text transcript and/or closed captioning as an alternate option for experiencing the content, and don’t let it play automatically (or at least provide easy-to-find player controls so users can stop it.)

     

  • Images – Add alt text to images so they can be read aloud by screen readers (alt text describes the contents of the image to users that can’t see it), and avoid putting text in graphics.

     

  • Animations – Avoid flashing visuals, limit animations to less than 5 seconds, and provide controls that allow the user to pause, skip or stop it.

     

  • Policies – Add an accessibility policy to your footer links.

     

  • Support – Provide multiple ways of requesting and receiving help, like email/phone/chat.

Looking for a tech + marketing superhero that designs with accessibility in mind?

Caitlin, smiling.

Hey there, I’m Caitlin!

I work with online service providers, course creators and community leaders to create digital marketing + client systems that look darn good – and work together seamlessly.

Grab the Ebook:

Digital Accessibility for Online Business Owners & Content Creators

Ebook cover reads: Digital Accessibility for Online Business Owners & Content Creators

If you want to build an accessible online business but the “how” feels elusive, it’s not just you – digital accessibility is in its wild west years, with snake oil salesmen to boot. Get the facts –  and learn to spot the quacks – with this easy-to-read ebook.

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