How to be a more accessible user of the internet
Updated: May 15
I'm fortunate enough to work in an organisation that posits accessibility first, or tries to anyway. And as I am dyslexic, I thought I'd jot down my top tips for being an accessible user of the internet. Even if you're not a blogger, adopting some of these habits will make you a better person.
1. Don't underline text unless it's a link
Underlined text looks like a link, it'll annoy your users if they think it is a link, but it actually isn't. You should be able to infer emphasis with the words you use, but if you're struggling use italics (sparingly).
2. Don't over use emojis
Don't replace words for emojis, especially emojis that could have ambiguous meaning, which is most of them. Don't try and convey meaning with emojis, they'll likely be interpreted differently by different people. Don't over use emojis in your Twitter handles, some of them are labelled weirdly which makes reading via a screen reader hard.
3. If you're going to use a hashtag, capitalise every word #LikeThis
Firstly, hashtags that aren't capitalised are #impossibletoread. Secondly, if you capitalise every word, screen readers read out every word, rather than interpreting the hashtag as one word.
4. Go easy on italics
Italics changes the formation of certain letters, which can make text hard to read. Even more so if your readers happen to be dyslexic.
5. DON'T OVER USE CAPITALS
First of all, all that shouting is unnecessary. Secondly, similar to the italics rule, capitals change the formation of certain letters = hard to read.
6. Use captions/ alt text when including photos
Captions/ alt text are read out by screen readers, so even if a user can't see the picture, they can know what the picture is. Also useful if a picture isn't loading for whatever reason.
7. Videos are near useless without subtitles
We talk a lot in government about how considering accessibility first, often creates opportunities to make things better for others. This is one of those examples. Think of all the situations you have been in when you've wanted to watch a video, but not had your headphones on you. It also means users who's first language is different from that of the people talking in your video, can follow along easier.
Don't get me wrong, I bloody love using greys but unless different colours are contrasted enough, your users will struggle to read your text. If you want to use a light text colour, think about making the background darker, like this. There are loads of contrast testers out there, just do a quick Google search.
9. Don't rely on colour to infer meaning
Lots of people are colour blind and lots of people might not subscribe to the same inferences as you. Pro tip: stay away from using red and green to mean good and bad. Red/ green colourblindness is the most common type. Use blue and red instead.
10. If you're writing for an audience that read from left to right, align text to the left
← Don't align text using any of these. It makes the text really hard to read.