How To Be Less Ablest Online
As small businesses who are often told to keep a very vivid idea in mind of who our ideal client is, it can sometimes be easy to let inclusivity slip through the cracks. We put on our blinkers to who we think our ideal client is on the outside and forget that these people are more than just a box ticking a certain demographic.
Although we have Google Analytics and insights telling us where our customers live and how old they are, there isn’t really any way of telling if who we’re addressing requires extra support. And more importantly— if we’re suitably catering for them.
As more and more businesses are being built and exist solely online, we become easily blind to difficulties others face behind a screen. And to disabilities that stretch beyond the physical.
Which is why it’s more vital than ever, that we reflect, question and make amendments to how our businesses are operating — as to not exclude those who aren’t as able as us. Because the reality is, more are living with disabilities or impairments than you might think.
Whilst some would argue that the internet has provided a safe space for those with disabilities to exist without having to face the discomforts that the outside world still fail them by, we could all use educating ourselves on how our businesses could be more accessible. In fact there are a few simple things we should all be doing online that would make our content accessible for those with disabilities.
Firstly, whenever we speak on camera, for either Instagram Stories or YouTube etc, we should be be subtitling what we say — allowing those with impaired hearing to join the conversation too. YouTube and Facebook even have the option to automatically generate captions on videos for you: there really should be no excuse to not implement this habit…
We should also be adding alt-text to our uploads. Alt-text is background code that can be added to our images that allows screen-readers to describe the content of our uploads. This means those who are unable to see or those who have cognitive disabilities will be able to know what’s in our images because we have described them within the alt-text. Every platform has a slightly different way of adding alt-text, but thankfully, they all make it super easy to do so. On Instagram for example, you can add alt-text to the images you post by tapping ‘add alt-text’ on the picture editor (the same way you would go to tag a user).
Another thing you can do to allow those with screen-readers to get involved in your posts is by using camel case hashtags. Camel case is the practice of capitalising the first letter of every new word — and the only way screen-readers can accurately pronounce our hashtags. So for example, our Coven hashtag #witchinnotbitchin would inclusively be used: #WitchInNotBitchIn.
These are such simple habits you can start implementing online but ones that have such positively vast implications.
If your business exists in a physical space e.g. you own a shop or run IRL workshops, you’re probably already more likely to have at least considered how you can be inclusive to those with disabilities. But as the much needed recent campaigning for greater awareness of invisible disabilities suggests, making sure your event space on the first floor has lift facilities or that there’s a disabled toilet is no longer going to simply cut it — those things should be mandatory. And they aren’t always the primary requirement for those many many sufferers with invisible illnesses.
The reality is that one in five people in the UK have a disability or impairment. If you aren’t including them in your online marketing or dialogue, you are losing out on a huge amount of connection, community and to be blunt, costumers. But more so than filling our pockets, being inclusive online means you can help accessibility become less of a virtue-signalling statement and instead a more compulsory symbol of unity between business and consumers. Those with disabilities don’t need further barriers when trying to navigate everyday life — lets extend our online practices to include them rather than exclude.