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10 tips to make your messages more accessible and effective

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Accessibility is key to inclusive internal communications: Here’s how to keep diverse audiences in mind

Whether you’re leading a business, a change initiative or simply a meeting, one of your constant communication challenges will be capturing⎯and holding⎯your audience’s attention. From vivid graphics to catchy wordplay, content creators are always looking for ways to make a splash. 

Several Pivot team members took this challenge literally on March 4, jumping into a frozen lake to raise awareness—and over $3,500—for Special Olympics Minnesota during the organization’s annual Polar Plunge fundraiser.

For this particular event, splashy works. The expressive photos and videos taken throughout the day offer a unique way to call attention to a necessary cause: creating a more inclusive society for people with intellectual disabilities.

When it comes to creating inclusive communications, a simpler approach can be just as effective—especially when you’re striving to make your content more accessible.

Tips to make your communications more accessible 

Communications are considered “accessible” when they are easily understandable and usable by a diverse audience. For example, a color-coded graph might help simplify a complex topic for you, but it’s not doing any favors for your colleague who has color vision deficiency (also known as color blindness).

In recognition of National Disabilities Awareness Month, here are 10 tips for creating more accessible communications.

  1. Effects: Limit special effects and animation in digital spaces. Key features and content should be immediately apparent and available; don’t make your audience hunt for or hover over buttons.
  2. Headings: Incorporate a heading structure (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) into your documents and websites to make content easier to navigate—particularly for people who use screen readers.
  3. Alt text: Add alternative text to visuals such as images, graphics, shapes and charts to help people who use screen readers understand the context and content within your document or website.
  4. Design: Use more than just color when using design to make a point. For example, if you’re calling attention to certain words and phrases on a slide, bold them in addition to changing their font color.
  5. Contrast: Create proper contrast ratios when designing a visual element with text to ensure words are legible for people with vision impairments. WebAIM’s Contrast Checker is a well-known tool that can help you achieve this.
  6. Color: Use tools such as Coblis Colorblind Simulator (for image files) or the Emulate Vision Deficiencies tool in Microsoft Edge (for webpage design) to see how different colors will appear for people who have color vision deficiency or blurred vision.
  7. Links: Make hyperlinked words more meaningful by linking the words that describe the destination you are sending your audience to. For example:
    • Do hyperlink the words “event agenda” in the following sentence: Find the event agenda on our website. 
    • Do not write, “Click here to find the event agenda,” and then only hyperlink “click here.” 
  1. Captions: Add captions to images and closed captions to videos.
  2. Communication channels: Use a variety of communication channels and formats to share the same message so your audience can use their preferred method to get the information they need.
  3. Capitalization: Capitalize the first letter of each word within hashtags to help screen readers detect the words more easily.
Pivot employees hold raised hands at Polar Plunge platform right before their jump
Pivot employees and friends at The Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Minnesota.

Resources to learn more

The list above is not exhaustive but instead serves as a reminder to continually assess the diverse needs and preferences of your audiences. Accessible communications are effective communications.

The resources below are a great starting point for learning more and building inclusive habits:

As Pivot’s creative director, Paul Connolly, says, “View accessible and inclusive content as ‘good content,’ not extra work or a hurdle to creativity. It’s simply the right thing to do.”

Looking for a partner in creating inclusive communications? Visit Pivot’s contact page to learn how to connect with us!

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