BBAW Day 5: On accessibility

Today’s the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (I’m sad it’s almost over!), and today’s prompt is:

The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.

All of these things are going to overlap in my response because I want to talk about making my (and hopefully your) blog more accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. One of the things I love most about the book blogging world is the sense of community. And we want everyone in our community to feel welcome, right?

There are a few things I always try to do to make my blog accessible to people. I have a review directory…and I actually update it. At the end of the week (or two weeks–max), I’ll set aside some time to add my new reviews to the directory. It makes it easier on me so that I don’t get swamped with work later down the line, and it makes it easy for visitors to locate things. Whenever I change my layout (which isn’t terribly often), the main things I keep in mind are font size and color: if the font is too small or it’s going to hurt my eyes (i.e., colored font on top of a dark background, etc.), I steer clear of it.

But there are other things to consider as well: I’m sure we’ve all come across a website with a lot of large images and flashing content that’s locked up our browser. Flashing images are minor annoyances to most people, but did you know they can put people prone to seizures at risk? I don’t feature ads on my blog (although I know WordPress displays ads to non-Wordpress users), but if I did, there’s no way I would allow flashing ads. Ever.

There are also things that most people don’t give a second thought to that people with disabilities rely on. Showing a video? Adding a transcript of the video is a huge help to people who are hearing impaired. Meanwhile, people who rely on text-to-speech software can benefit greatly from proper alternate text descriptions on images you have on your blog. This is what my screen looked like when I was adding an image of the Wildwood book cover to a blog post:

Example of how to add an alternate text tag using the Wildwood book cover.

Alternate text doesn’t have to be flowery and complicated (in fact, the more straightforward the better). It just needs to be functional.

Finally, there are two really great resources you can use to evaluate your website: WAVE and Vischeck.

With WAVE, you type in your blog’s url address and are able to instantly view how many basic accessibility issues you have and where they are. Your blog will appear on screen with green, yellow, and red flags all over the place that point out what you’re doing right and what you need to work on. You may not agree with everything or be able to fix every problem (particularly if you have no way to modify CSS on your blog), but there are probably several things you can fix on your blog. And it’s free, so you have no excuses not to have at least the basics covered!

Vischeck works on the same principal: you can type your url into the site and it will simulate how your blog looks to people who have different types of colorblindness. This comes in handy if you use a lot of colored text or have a colored background; certain color combinations might be making your blog very hard for some people to see.

I’m by no means perfect when it comes to remembering all of these things all the time, but I’m working on it. Periodically plugging my url into these sites goes a long way. So much of this stuff is really easy and basic; it’s just a matter of developing the habit. Most people probably don’t think twice about things like alternate text in images or transcripts for book trailers, but these small things can make a world of difference to some of your readers.

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17 comments

  1. The Literary Omnivore

    Review directories are important—reviews are, after all, why we’re mostly here, so making it difficult to find your reviews is just silly. Your layout is lovely and very easy on the eyes; I truly appreciate it, especially when a lot of blogs go for clutter rather than clean.

    While Feministing does it, I’ve never thought about providing transcripts for video content. I’ll strive to do so from now on. And I’m definitely checking out WAVE!

  2. MJ

    Thank you for the accessibility tips and reminders. I knew about alt text (although I don’t always use it) but I had no idea about those sites. I’ll be sure to check them out.

  3. amymckie

    Thank you so much for these links, definitely fantastic resources and I’m off to check them out. The alternate text is one that I had done, but must check the rest! Thanks again.

  4. Lu

    This was so useful and something that I’ve honestly never thought about before (though I absolutely should have). I tried out the WAVE and a lot of it were things that I couldn’t change on my layout, but still lots of things that I can change. Thank you!

  5. Erin

    Yes to review directories! I don’t post more than a couple of times a week, so sometimes I’ll go a little longer with updating, but I try to keep it current. And thank you so much for your tips about accessibility. It’s one of those areas I’ve thought about a bit but had no concrete steps to act on. I do try to keep my blog easy on the eyes, and I do use alternate text for my images, but it’s nowhere near as clean as your layout! I’ll definitely run my blog through those sites and see what they have to say. Thank you!

  6. Carol

    Thanks for some great tips. I had never really considered it before. I’m guilty of just leaving that Alternate Text box blank. That’s a really easy fix that’ll take no extra time.

  7. Eva

    Do you have a program you use for transcripts of videos? Or do you just type it up yourself? I’ve always felt bad about vlogging w/o transcripts, but since typing causes me pain, I can’t provide more elaborate touchstones than just a list of the books I mention.

  8. Memory

    Great tips. I maintain a review database listed by author (or artist) and by title, and I’ll see what I can do about the problems WAVE spotted. Many of them seem to be CSS related, but there’s got to be something I can do there.

  9. the picky girl

    You are awesome, and this post is just a reminder of why I think you’re such a cool person. I’m so self absorbed that I honestly never even thought of this. I’m totally ashamed to admit that.

    These are such great ideas. I do regularly update my reviews simply because I get such a sense of satisfaction out of it.

  10. quirky girls read-jehara

    I will admit to never having thought about accessibility in this way. I do use the alt text box but could improve the way I describe the images. I am going to check out these sites and see what flags come up. Thanks for an enlightening and thoughtful post.

  11. Melissa

    I’m glad y’all like the links. I know I can let stuff slide after a while, so running my blog through WAVE every couple of months is a great reality check. Luckily, it’s usually stuff that only takes a couple of minutes to fix! 🙂

  12. Andi (Estella's Revenge)

    These are GREAT resources! Thanks so much for sharing them because, sadly, I’m pretty much clueless in this regard. I had no idea there were so many great things online to help target accessibility issues. Thanks for sharing!

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