Mixed media illustration of hands writing, talk bubbles and emojis.
Mixed media illustration of hands writing, talk bubbles and emojis.

The Secret Sauce of Accessibility

Why inclusive design should include a writer.

Amy Kaufmann
Feb 11 · 3 min read

I’ve found when web accessibility comes up, the conversation tends to center around design details like color contrast, keyboard-friendly navigation or resizable text. Those elements are super important, but as a writer, I’ve sat at these meetings wanting to contribute more.

So I started to look at how copy can enhance design in order to make it even more inclusive. What you say makes a difference, but so does how you say it. Here are some small but important steps writers can take to make the web a better space for everyone.

#InitialCapHashtags

There are over 7 billion people in the world, and nearly half of them use social media. That’s a lot of eyes and ears! We all know the block of hashtags that typically graces the end of a post, but did you know that with a screen reader, it comes across as gibberish?

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Initial Cap Your Hashtags. When every word is capped, screen readers will recognize and read each word individually. Even better, try to infuse as many hashtags within the post itself to reduce the block. Fellow writers, if we can obsess over the Oxford comma, we can bring the same amount of fervor to hashtags!

The Office of Experience’s Instagram about design being everywhere with an image of a ferris wheel from a dramatic angle.
The Office of Experience’s Instagram about design being everywhere with an image of a ferris wheel from a dramatic angle.
Make your hashtags even more effective and accessible with initial caps.

Always write alt text for images

Beautiful photography often takes center stage. I’ve been in many creative regroups where the homepage image is hotly debated while my headline waits in the wings. However, I’ve found myself more engaged in those discussions when I started to think about the perfect alt text to describe the images in question.

Alt text (also known as “alt attributes,” “alt descriptions” or “alt tags”) gives context to people who can’t see an image, but it’s often overlooked or quickly entered by the manager of the CMS. It’s worth having a writer craft this language, creating a richer experience for all — not to mention a boost for SEO.

Image details being entered into a content management system form.
Image details being entered into a content management system form.
Capturing the moment with the right language can take a few drafts. Start by stating the obvious, then move onto a more contextual description.

Use subtitles in videos

Six out of ten people would rather watch online videos than TV. In fact, YouTube is the second most popular website after Google, and video posts are quickly becoming the norm across all social media platforms.

When you produce a video that’s informative, entertaining and intriguing to viewers, it’s worth taking the extra step to add subtitles. Not only does this allow everyone to experience your video, but you’ll have the added bonus of engaging with mobile viewers who tend to keep their sound off.

While movies give people the option to watch with subtitles, your videos should always include them.

Anchor text matters

Anchor links are fantastic — they allow people to move through a website in a more organic way than waiting for a big call-to-action button. However, this natural navigation can be made even more effective simply by paying attention to the language.

Think of anchor links as a promise — the copy should be specific and the click should go exactly where it says. Clearly phrased anchor text alleviates that sense of the unknown, making it easier for everyone to bounce from page to page with confidence.

Table containing information about a telecommunications service that includes two anchor links.
Table containing information about a telecommunications service that includes two anchor links.
There should be a comfortable cadence of anchor links on the page, so be choiceful and specific with your anchor text language and strategy.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of writing accessibility tips, but it’s a start. And let’s be honest, these are details only a writer could love. That’s why it’s important for copy and design to work together — because in the end, the product is always stronger. And now it can be more inclusive.

Better By __

At The Office of Experience, we believe the experience is…

Amy Kaufmann

Written by

Senior Writer at The Office of Experience

Better By __

At The Office of Experience, we believe the experience is the brand®. The best brand experiences are better by design. But they’re also better by strategy, technology, and message. Better By explores the ways in which the world around us is made better by design.

Amy Kaufmann

Written by

Senior Writer at The Office of Experience

Better By __

At The Office of Experience, we believe the experience is the brand®. The best brand experiences are better by design. But they’re also better by strategy, technology, and message. Better By explores the ways in which the world around us is made better by design.

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