Accessibility Tools

3 blue keys on a keyboard. Each key has a symbol for accessibility. From left to right: Wheelchair access. Hearing loop and a person with low vision using a cane.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is held on the third Thursday of May. GAAD aims to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.

At IDEAS, people with disabilities need information in accessible formats. It's the main reason we exist. We provide people with information in a usable and meaningful format daily. People who are D/deaf or hard of hearing might need video content with closed captions. People with print disabilities, like people who are blind or have low vision, might need that same video content with audio descriptions or a text-based alternative. People with intellectual disabilities might need a document in Easy Read or Easy English format.

We know that 1 in 5 Australians has a disability and according to the GAAD, 1 billion people have a disability worldwide. That’s a lot of people. Why would you make content that a billion people can’t read, listen or access?

Here are three simple things you can do right now to make your online content more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

1. Use high-contrast, easy-to-read fonts.

Far beyond the number one reason web content fails to meet web accessibility guidelines. According to the WebAIM Million report, over 85% of websites tested in February 2019 and 2020 had low-contrast text.

Using brightly coloured text to draw attention to headings or links makes sense from both a design and accessibility perspective, and it usually makes content easier to read. However, be mindful of the contrast between your text and the background. A light-coloured heading on a white background may be impossible to read for people with low vision. This applies to written words in images as well. Ensure that even if a piece of text is over or in an image, it is still easily discernible from the background image. Words will often blend into an image or scene where contrast hasn't been considered carefully. 

WebAIM provides an easy-to-use Contrast Checker, which will tell you in a flash if your contrast meets accessibility guidelines. There is more detailed information on Contrast Colour and Accessibility here.  

2. Provide alt-text or image descriptions.

The number two issue the WebAIM Million report identified was missing alternative text for images. 66% of the million home pages sampled for the report were missing alternative text. Another 10% had images with alternative text that was questionable, pointless or repetitive.

Alternative text can be attached to images so that when a screen reader encounters an image, it reads out the text to the end user rather than just skipping over it. The end-user is missing out on that key information if you use text in images, say as a header or banner.

Any information communicated visually is not accessible unless there is a text-based alternative. Using short and relevant descriptions can improve your accessibility and search engine optimisation (SEO).

Images on social media are becoming more accessible, too, and end-users ability to add alt-text is now available on most platforms (like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Where this function is unavailable, the best practice is to provide an Image description at the bottom of your post.


black and white image of hands typing on a laptop. a mug sits behind and reads "Keep Calm and Drink Coffee".[Image description]: a black and white image of hands typing on a laptop. A mug sits on the desk behind it and reads "Keep Calm and Drink Coffee".


Accessible Images
Alternative Text
Image Alt Text: What It Is, How to Write It, and Why It Matters to SEO

3. Make sure audiovisual content has captions and audio descriptions.

Captions make audiovisual content accessible for D/deaf or hard of hearing. Try watching a video or sitting in on a Zoom meeting with the sound off on your computer, and you'll get an instant idea of what it is like to consume this kind of content with a hearing impairment. Podcasts, for example, are not accessible for people with hearing impairment unless there is a text-based transcript or other captioning option in place. 

Audio descriptions make audiovisual content accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. Any information communicated visually in a video, including text, live-action and animation, isn't available to people with these kinds of disabilities. Try watching a video with your screen off so you can only hear what is happening. Then watch it back again with the screen on, and you will see how much information you missed the first time. Audio describers describe what can be seen on screen for people who cannot see it. 

This video from MSFTEnable demonstrates how audio descriptions work. It is captioned, making it accessible to people with low or no hearing. 

Many platforms, including YouTube and Zoom, have built-in auto-captioning, but you can improve captioning on your content in some simple ways. There are many captioning and audio-describing services available, one of which is Ai-media. Ai-media also has a great DIY Captioning Guide, which can empower you to make your content accessible and save time and money while doing so as well. Suppose you don't have the time or resources. In that case, though, professional captioning and audio-describing services are not as expensive as you might think and, in the long run, will ensure your content is accessible to a broader audience.

We consume more content in our busy and digitally integrated lives than ever. Even people who do not need these enhancements may benefit from their inclusion. You might want to watch a video while on your daily commute, but forget your headphones. No problem, switch on closed captions and keep the video muted, and away you go. You can still access this content. Maybe someone spoke too softly, quickly or with a thick accent. Thankfully, there is a caption there to pick up missed words. 


Why audio description is so easy now and why you should use it
DIY Captioning Guide
4 reasons to live caption your Zoom meeting

Web Accessibility Standards

For more information on making content accessible and inclusive, refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. WCAG 2.1 is the global standard for web accessibility and was developed by the W3C consortium in 2018. It is a technical document and would be helpful for developers, web designers and content creators. 

More information

Australian Government Style Manual

Australian Government Style Manual 

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)


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