Digital content without barriers

It’s time to use the technology and know-how we have at our disposal, and use it to make sure that everyone can join in the conversation.

red tile with white font. States, accessible digital content: time for action
Written By
Emel Rizwani
Published On
December 3, 2020

Digital Content without barriers

Accessible digital content: time for action

Just how accessible is your social media and digital content? Do you always add Alt-text to images and captions to videos? Do you put your draft digital content through a screen reader? Or is it something that always ends up on tomorrow’s to-do list?

I’m shouting about it in today’s blog because I think it’s time to get serious about making our digital content accessible to all. Awareness is one thing, but it’s meaningless if it isn’t turned into action.

Inclusivity – time to stop paying lip service

You only need to look at the figures to understand why accessible digital content needs to be a priority. That is if we’re serious about living in a truly inclusive society. Latest figures from WHO show that:

  • At least 2.2 billion people around the world are affected by blindness and vision impairment
  • 466 million suffer from hearing loss, and
  • One in four adults have some form of disability or impairment

These are huge numbers! And they give some indication of the number of people globally who rely on assistive technology to access content online.

My view is that businesses should be finding ways to strengthen their connections with all their clients, not putting barriers in the way. Yet too many aren’t, from small independents to big global brands. Is it because they don’t know how to make content accessible? Is it because they haven’t got round to it? Is it because they just don’t get it? The truth, in most cases, is that they simply haven’t taken the time to understand how people with hearing and visual impairments and disabilities access the online world, only to find themselves excluded from the conversation, again.

I don’t understand why businesses would invest so much time, energy and budget in creating engaging social media and digital marketing campaigns, only to exclude a large part of the audience. It’s wrong – ethically and commercially.

“If you can find the time to scroll for the perfect emoji, then you have the time to Alt-text the images on your carefully prepared Instagram post.”

It’s madness that I even need to write this, but I will. People with disabilities and impairments are the same as everyone else. They want to shop online, follow their teams and interests, plan their next holiday, stream a movie, have access to the same information and news that everyone else does.

So, I’m calling it. It’s time to adopt the technology and know-how we have at our disposal and use it to make sure that everyone can join in the conversation.

Disability awareness month 2020

This month is Disability Awareness Month and 3 December 2020 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year I am making it my mission to help businesses turn awareness into action, starting with this short guide and the offer of a conversation. I’m here if you have any questions and want to know how you can make accessible digital content a priority in your business.

A short guide to creating accessible content

First: get familiar with Assistive Technology

Assistive technologies make digital content accessible to people with hearing and visual impairments.

  1. Screen readers – software programmes that enable people who are blind or visually impaired to read using a speech synthesiser
  2. Speech synthesiser – computerised device that accepts input, interprets data and produces audible language
  3. Text to speech programmes – convert text into spoken voice output

By becoming familiar with how they work and how people use them to access digital content, you’ll be a step closer to making your social media content open to everyone.

Second: address your images and video

Add Alt-text to your images.

Strong images play a huge part in the success of social media marketing campaigns. And yet, without Alt-text someone with a vision disability cannot engage with this carefully chosen image. Use the Alt-text box to describe your image so that someone using a screen reader can ‘hear’ a full picture of your content.

Caption your videos. 

Video brings brands and campaigns to life, creating deeper connections with your audience, but only if you’re using captions. Otherwise, it’s a wasted opportunity.

And while captions and subtitles make video available to people who can’t access the content aurally, a staggering 80% of people who use captions are not deaf or hard of hearing. As more and more of us watch video on-the-go and in public spaces, captioning makes content accessible wherever we are.

Third: Follow correct etiquette with your copy, hashtags and emojis


Placing hashtags, emojis and @mentions at the end of your copy helps readability and impact for everyone, especially people using a screen reader. And it’s good social media etiquette.

Secondly, content indicators help people using a screen reader know what to expect. For example, use them before a hyperlink, [photo], [image], [graphic], and link back to a full captioned version of videos where you can.


Hashtags are invaluable for searching through online content, joining conversations, and creating a buzz, but you need to use ‘Camel Case’ – the practice of capitalising each word within a compound hashtag. A screen reader will use the caps to identify the separate words, otherwise, it reads your hashtag as one long word, losing all the creativity that you put into it.

Emojis and Icons 

Emojis add character to your message, but they don’t belong in the main body of your copy.  This is because each emoji has its own description on the back end, and these descriptions can be very specific.

Clear and simple fonts

And please, no fancy fonts because screen readers simply can’t see them.

And finally, check your content before publishing

The best way to check the accessibility of your content? Create a live test account and run your draft content through screen reader software and a speech synthesiser. Only then should you share it on your customer-facing account.

What will you do today to make your digital content accessible? Get in touch to learn more about how Red Gem can help you transform your marketing content to be inclusive to all. 


1. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), part of the WWW Consortium (W3C) can be found at It’s not a ‘light read’, but it’s the best place to get your streamlined standards

2. The Government Communication Service published guidance on creating accessible social media campaigns here.

3. Alexa Heinrich is a social media marketer and a passionate advocate for digital accessibility and inclusive content on social media. Her training on this matter has been invaluable.

4. UK disability awareness month, 18 November to 20 December 2020.