As UK Government, health officials and businesses grapple with the spread of coronavirus, the outbreak highlights the importance of effective and accessible communication, so everyone knows how to keep themselves and the community safe.
One in five people aged 75 and over have sight loss and many blind and partially sighted people have comorbidities. It is therefore essential that information about changes in policy, procedures or advice, is accessible, giving it the best chance of reaching those at high risk from the virus.
All public bodies, charities and businesses are in a high-pressure, fast-moving situation where vital information has to be communicated to the public extremely quickly. This can lead to such communications not going through the usual processes and accessibility checks.
What should organisations be doing?
In England, the NHS and social services departments should be following the Accessible Information Standard, providing information in people’s preferred format. The Equality Act also requires all service providers - including businesses who provide services to the public - to make “reasonable adjustments” to support disabled people, including providing information “in an accessible format”.
This means ensuring that online information can be read easily with standard user settings, magnifying software and screen readers. Use RNIB’s tips to help make sure your online information is accessible and follow the links to further guidance.
Quick tips for digital accessibility
- Use clear, formatted headings, to help screen reader users navigate your document or webpage
- Do not use images of text to convey information as they cannot be read by screen readers
- Ensure text can be resized and background and text colors can be modified to suit the reading preferences of users
- Make sure links are written out to describe the document or resource they send the user to
- Make sure information or explainer videos convey the same information in the audio voiceover as the images on screen
- Use image descriptions to share the information given in an image or photograph
- Ensure all downloadable content (Word or PDF) is made accessible.
Social media and websites
Blind and partially sighted people use different tools to read online materials, including screen readers - which read text out loud - and magnification. Screen readers cannot make sense of information in images so avoid sharing any written information as screenshots or images as these are not accessible.
Make sure you capitalise the first letter of every word in a hashtag so screen readers can read them out correctly, and magnification users can see it more clearly.
Why use image descriptions
Image descriptions ensure the information from your image reaches everyone. Websites and social media often offer ways to insert a text description of the image, which can be read out by a screen reader, allowing the viewer to build up a mental picture of the scene.
How to write an image description
Describe broadly what your image shows, thinking about which details are most important to the people you're trying to reach. Just pick out a few key details that paint the picture.
How to add your image description
- Twitter: Write your tweet and when you add a picture, you’ll notice “Add description” pops up in white writing on the bottom right of your image. Click on the button to insert your description.
- Facebook: Include a description in the text post accompanying your picture. Write any other text first and then include the description afterwards. Type a square bracket, write “Image description:”, describe your image, close the square brackets and then insert your image into the post.
- Instagram: Upload your photo and edit it as required. On the caption page, add your caption and then click on “advanced settings” and then “write alt text” (both are at the bottom of the screens). Insert your image description into the alt text section and in square brackets in your caption.
- Websites: On most content management systems when you upload an image there is an option to add an image description. Please make sure you always complete this.
RNIB can help make sure your communications are accessible to blind and partially sighted people. Get in touch with our RNIB Business team on 01733 375 370 or find out more using the links below.
‘How to’ guides
Policy and Guidance