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ATD Blog

Best Practices for Creating Accessible and Inclusive Digital Media in the Public Sector

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It’s important for all organizations to ensure that the materials they create—including digital assets—are accessible to all people. But it’s especially critical for organizations within the federal government and public sector. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines offer a comprehensive set of standards to help ensure accessibility across digital content creation. We’ve put together a quick list of six steps you can take today to create more inclusive content:

1. Add closed captions.

Closed captions are textual displays of what’s said within a video. They are overlaid on completed videos and can be toggled on or off. Adding closed captions helps people with hearing impairments understand and enjoy the video content you create. Open captions, on the other hand, are captions that are built into the video itself, and there is no way for screen-reading software to parse these or for viewers to turn them off.

All federal agencies are required to make their technology accessible to people with disabilities. So, if you are making video content for a government agency, you must include closed captions to stay 508-compliant.

2. Include alt text.

Alt text (alternative text) is copy that describes and sometimes replaces a visual element on the screen. Paired with a screen-reading program, alt text makes it possible for visually impaired users to understand and fully digest your content.

Alt text also helps with readability for all users by appearing in place of images that don’t load due to an outdated browser or poor internet connection.


3. Include video descriptions on social media.

Much like alt text on a website, video descriptions on social posts are typically read by screen-reading programs to help people who are visually impaired absorb the content. Be clear and detailed when writing video descriptions, so your entire audience can fully understand what is happening in your posts.

As of this writing, Twitter provides an area to enter video descriptions, whereas Facebook requires that you add any tags and captions under Video Options. If you can’t find a place to enter a video description on a certain platform, you may need to enter the description as the first comment on the post.

4. Be mindful when designing videos.

The design of a video is a huge factor in how accessible its content is. The wrong design choices can unintentionally exclude certain audiences. Here are a few tips to help keep your video design friendly to your entire audience:

  • When positioning text on the screen, avoid placing it in areas where closed captions will appear, since cluttered text can be difficult to read.
  • Be mindful of your color choices. (Find more on this topic in Step 5.)
  • Ensure your videos are safe for those with photosensitivity by avoiding rapid transitions or bright flashes in succession, which can cause epileptic seizures. This also helps people with ADHD or autism and those in concussion recovery.
  • Consider representation by including people with disabilities in your video content.


5. Make the right color choices.

Those with color vision deficiency, or color blindness, are often unable to clearly distinguish between red, blue, and green. While you may not be able to rebrand or cut certain colors, you can avoid layering red, blue, and green in visuals where these colors aren’t critical to understanding the message.

Use a contrast checker to make sure your text and background combinations are readable by those with color vision deficiency. Contrast requirements vary depending on the size of the text, so be as precise as possible when using a contrast tool.

6. Remove autoplay from videos.

Autoplaying content on sites can be distracting and disruptive for certain audiences. Screen-reader users would be unable to hear the page text because the video’s audio would automatically play over the screen reader’s audio. Those with focus problems might find themselves distracted and overwhelmed by spontaneous video or audio content.

When you upload or embed videos, make sure they’re set to play only when clicked. This ensures that your viewers receive the experience that best fits their needs.

For some organizations, creating accessible content is the law, and it’s best practice for all. Everyone benefits from more inclusive content.

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