How to make sure your content is accessible to everyone
By Liam O’Dell
There is, of course, an element of freelancing that is about reach. We have to sell ourselves and our talent, after all. Granted, we all have clients who come to us for work, but we often have to put our name out there to encourage further business. We are our own brands, in a sense.
At this point I should say that I’m preaching to the choir here and that a lot of the above is widely understood by fellow freelancers. Yet, one area which isn’t as great as it could be is that of accessibility. By excluding a large proportion of disabled people with inaccessible content – often unintentionally, I hasten to add – fellow freelancers are harming their aforementioned ‘reach’, and only making their work a lot harder. Accessibility should be an integral part of every freelancer’s business strategy.
As a Deaf freelance journalist and campaigner, the main thing I’m often drawing attention to is captions. They’re not just helpful to Deaf people like me, but also autistic people, those with auditory processing disorders, and people for whom English (or whichever language the video is in) isn’t their first language.
They’re also helpful to hearing people, not least because a commonly cited statistic is that 85% of videos on Facebook are viewed without sound – probably in part because the social network’s autoplay feature means clips come without audio until a user actually taps or clicks into the video to watch it. We’ve likely been in situations where we want to watch something in public, but we’ve forgotten our earphones or headphones and can’t play the sound out loud – captions help.
Some platforms have their own captioning tools available. For others, it’s better to add captions to the original video itself before uploading it. Instagram has a new captions sticker you can use in your Stories, while YouTube has an impressive captions editor which means you can amend the automatically generated text as one block of text before it auto-syncs it for you. Never upload a video with automatic captions instead of captions you have added yourself because these are often inaccurate.
If you’re wanting to add captions to content filmed on your phone, then apps such as AutoCap, MixCaptions and Clipomatic are available. You can learn more about these in a video I made in 2020. It’s also important that captions are white or yellow against a black background for readability purposes.
Accessibility is forever an ongoing process, and as such, there will always be things we as freelancers can do to improve our services in this area. However, alongside captions, another essential thing to implement is image descriptions and alt text. These help to tell blind and visually impaired people what is contained within a photo and tools to add these to your content are available on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The brilliant folks over at the UK disability charity Scope also have a handy guide on their website.
It is my view that accessibility benefits everyone, and if you implement it into your services – which you should – then you’ll see the benefits too.