Hey, I’m Erin. I’m a deaf business owner and founder of Mabley Q in Silver Spring, Maryland. I know we are really used to connecting in person and now everything is shifting to being online exclusively. It’s even more important now, and more valuable than ever before, really building on that human connection.
A question for you: Are you accessible? If not, that’s okay. That’s okay. I’m here to support you.
So today, I want to share with you five tips on how to make that shift to really ensure your business is accessible for all.
The first thing I wanted to mention is we always need to keep in mind that we can’t make assumptions about who our audience is. We don’t know who’s watching. We don’t know who’s trying to connect with us. We should never assume that we know how our users are engaging with us.
Caption Instagram Stories
So my first tip has to do with Instagram, Instagram Stories. One thing I want to call on you is to caption your video. There’s a few ways you can do them: make captions, Clipomatic, or type up cliff notes, and add them to your video so people can follow along.
My next tip has to do with hashtags. You know how we all write hashtags in lowercase? I want to encourage you to make a shift. I want you to shift from lowercase and start adding initial capitalization or camel case. Why? That’s just friendlier for screen readers. People who are blind or visually impaired, they typically use screen readers so they can actually read the hashtag. It allows them to hear the word individually instead of one long incoherent word but that just makes no sense whatsoever. The other advantage to this it actually friendlier to people with dyslexia or cognitive disabilities.
My third tip: I want to encourage you to minimize your emoji usage. I know. It’s really challenging sometimes. We want to scream it out to the world. Use as many emojis as possible. But if you put yourself in the person who has to listen to the screen reader repeat it, over and over again, it’s not fun. So, I’m not saying you have to not use emojis, I’m saying, minimize your usage of them and with more control.
Add Alt-Text To Images
So my fourth tip: All right now, we’re all working on business, making all these changes, updating things. Now is really important to go on your website and start adding in alt-text to your images. If you’re a photographer, I’m not saying you have to update all the images, that’s too many. I want to encourage you to focus on your main pages, like your home page, your about you page, your services page. Start adding alt-text to images there. This allows people to be able to appreciate the images without being able to see them.
Another advantage to adding alt-text? It’s actually really great for SEO search engine optimization.
Video Meeting Tools
My final tip for today is we’re hosting a lot of video meetings. I have two tools I want to recommend.
Google Meet. This has the live captioning feature, which is not perfect. But it really does the trick in a pinch.
The other thing I want to encourage you is to use Zoom, the web app, but you have to turn on the phone audio feature. It allows for people like me, who are deaf, to use the call-in feature and connect to the video relay service. This allows for us to really fully participate with an interpreter.
So these are just some tips and ideas of how you can really step up your accessibility.
And one thing I want you to remember is take it step by step. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Because my, the thing I always say is progress, not perfection. Good luck.