ACCESSIBLE DIGITAL ORGANIZING
The coronavirus outbreak has changed the landscape for political organizing across the nation. As we shift from in-person organizing to digital organizing, we must make sure that our organizing is accessible to 61 million Americans with disabilities. Our virtual events, phone calls, social media, and online information must be accessible to people with disabilities.
Who often needs access in digital organizing?
All types of people with disabilities have different access needs in both online and in-person spaces. However, digital organizing has major access barriers for people with certain types of disabilities. Below are a few examples of major access barriers for people with disabilities.
- People who are blind or who have low vision: Written and visual information must be screen reader accessible.
- People who are Deaf or hard of hearing: Audio information must be captioned
- People with auditory processing disabilities may also need captioning
- People with cognitive disabilities may need additional processing time for materials. Information should be written in plain language that is easy to understand.
How do you make digital organizing accessible? Below is a basic list of best practices for accessibility and providing accommodations for people with disabilities. Some of these accommodations are larger practices that involve planning and resources. However, many of the best practices below are ones that we can adopt both in our organizing work and in our personal social media use to make the digital space more accessible to people with disabilities.
Webinars, Conference Calls, and Other Digital Events:
Have an option to request accommodations on your event registration page. This should include a question on your registration form that says “do you need an accommodation to participate in this event?” and have a form field where attendees can explain what they need. Make sure to check the answers to this question two to three days in advance of your event, and then once more on the day of (or day before) the event.
- Another option would be to designate a point of contact for accommodation requests. This could look like “if you need an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact John Smith at 555-555-5555 or SmithJ@organization.org”
Provide CART for conference calls or webinars. People who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or who have auditory processing disorders will need CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning to participate in your live webinars or conference calls. CART is also beneficial for people who speak English as a second language.
- While some platforms like Google Hangouts provide live auto-captioning, auto-captions are often inaccurate, and so they do not provide equal access to people with disabilities.
- The Association for Court Reporters and Captioners and Stenosearch.com have directories of CART providers.
Finalize PowerPoint slides or other written materials several days in advance of your presentation whenever possible, as attendees may request that you send the materials to them as an accommodation. This may be because:
- An attendee has a cognitive disability and needs additional processing time,
- An attendee is blind or has low vision and needs to use their screen reader to read the slides.
Have speakers on calls and webinars identify themselves. Each time there is a transition between speakers, have the new speaker announce their name. This will help attendees who cannot see the screen know who is talking.
Image Description: An image description is read by a screen reader so that a blind person can comprehend the message of a picture. This is also sometimes called “alt text,” or alternative text. On a webpage, alt text is stored in the page’s code and is only displayed when an image fails to load.
- An image description should describe the most important details of a picture or graphic.
- Social media platforms and software products have different ways to add image descriptions to images. Some platforms have special features to add image descriptions, while others do not.
- For more information on writing image descriptions:
- Harvard Digital Accessibility: “Write Good Alt Text to Describe Images”
- Accessible U (University of Minnesota): “Accessible Social Media”
Hashtags should be written in camel case, meaning that they should have the first letter of each word capitalized. Example: #DemocraticDebate, not #democraticdebate
Information should be written in plain language. This means that it is written in ways that are easy to understand for people who are unfamiliar with the topic.
- Try to limit use of acronyms and jargon. Define acronyms and jargon when you use them.
- For more information on plain language, visit PlainLanguage.gov
Videos must be captioned with accurate captioning. Just like with live conference calls and webinars, captioning is necessary for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, people who have auditory processing disorders, people with learning disabilities, and for people who speak English as a second language. Additionally, people without disabilities frequently use captioning, and 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.
- If you are uploading a YouTube video, you can write your own captions. Learn how in YouTube’s Help Center.
- If you generate “auto-captions,” proofread those captions. Auto-captions often have inaccuracies that must be corrected to provide full access to people with disabilities.
These are just a few best practices to make your digital organizing more accessible to people with disabilities. There are many more ways to make online content accessible. Below are some additional resources on digital accessibility: