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Advocacy Through an Accessibility Lens: Creating Strategies, Content, and Events for Audiences with Different Needs (Deep Dive 1)

October 4, 2023 @ 10:15 am 11:10 am

When we advocate for and work with communities of people who have disabilities, accessibility is non-negotiable. In this session, we will explore how creating accessible content could make us better partners for any audience.

Rachel Abraham, The National Council for Mental Wellbeing
Caitlin Bergstrom, American Geophysical Union
Mark Fisher, Muscular Dystrophy Association (moderator)
Stacie Manger, American Forest & Paper Association
Chris Ruiz, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility


  • Why should you be?
    • There are pieces put into place, like the ADA, where you are being reactive to meet the standards they have set, but you should be more proactive so you can be more inclusive of audiences
    • The first step has been taken with the regulations, but you should be doing more to engage the most advocates possible, we want to reach everyone and need to put in the effort to make materials accessible
    • 25% of Americans have disabilities, many of which are not visible disabilities and advocates do not have to disclose them 
      • These people are in your audience and if you’re not working to include them, you’re missing a huge amount of your audience 
      • You have a larger audience to pull from if you allow flexibility and inclusivity
    • Accessibility and inclusivity aren’t limited to disability
      • Not all of these are demographic click-offs
      • All of these people have their own experiences and have faced issues in the workplace
      • Your audiences have different knowledge bases
      • Utilize calm, clear, concise language
      • Human-based design is an important aspect we’re including, it’s based on empathy and will help begin breaking down barriers
    • The burden of accessibility often falls on those with disabilities
      • People with disabilities are fighting with this all the time 
      • Do we want to make our advocates advocate for themselves first before we can help them?
        • It’s a low-level lift to make things more accessible and you can help your advocates first when they are working to help you and are doing you a solid 
      • Taking the extra step lets your audience know that they are valued
    • Why better accessibility website design?
      • Better accessibility on the website allows Google to crawl through the site more easily and helps it to be more viewable
      • If the website is designed well and accessible then it will increase user retention
      • Having an accessible design can help you avoid legal issues
  • How can we get started?
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel
      • Other people have done the work already, rely on them to get through this
      • There are tons of resources out there that can help you know if your website is accessible and help you improve it if it’s not 
      • The fact that you’re putting in effort will show your advocates that you value them and appreciate the work that they are doing
      • Ask for help – this isn’t easy – but don’t do it in a predatorily exclusive way 
        • Don’t make it the job of someone with a disability and make them feel like they are the only disability that you are listening to
    • Think through physical space
      • Look around and consider how your space looks. Some questions you might consider may include:
        • Are walkways wide enough to be wheelchair accessible?
        • Are there low-top and high-top tables available?
        • Do you have enough chairs for people who need to sit?
      • These are pretty low lifts of things to make people feel safe
        • It’s the floor, and there are easy things to do to make places feel more accessible 
      • We’re all going to need accommodations at some point in our lives, especially as we grow old
        • Don’t take these for granted now or make things less accessible
        • It sometimes takes someone you know or love experiencing these spaces for you to realize the impact
      • Trust but verify when you are planning an event
        • Oftentimes event spaces will tell you that they can be accessible, but won’t follow through until pushed
          • E.g., a hotel could have a roll-in shower, but it could be given to someone who does not have a disability or need for it while an advocate who does will be given an inaccessible room 
    • Start slow, use free tools, and create checklists
      • Consider using plain, simple language, even for experts
        • No one will complain about anything being simple
      • Short sentences are easier for everyone to understand
      • Creating checklists can help you make sure that you are meeting all of the needs and aren’t missing the little things 
      • People will abandon your content or your website if it is not accessible
      • Make sure you use #CamelCase in your social media posts 
        • This is capitalizing the first word of every word in your hashtag so it is easy to read
          • This also helps it be tracked on social media sites since they can tell it is more than one word
    • Include diverse groups in your feedback and testing
      • Work with your outside partners to make sure you are including diverse groups in your feedback or in the personas that you are building 
      • Find ways to incorporate them and find ways to make them most comfortable to provide feedback
        • This helps to build empathy and relationships with others
    • Where to learn about accessibility standards
      • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 
      • Make sure there is an accessibility section in your branding guide so that when you give it to a developer, vendor, or outside partner they will include it and follow your brand
    • Make your audience feel welcome
      • This can help increase retention and have your audiences come back
    • I can’t believe it’s not accessible content
      • Make your accessible content in the same way that you would be making your normal content
        • In the creative process, you should just be thinking about making fun content and then make sure you have the accessible piece in place 
          • This goes back to not reinventing the wheel
      • Once you know that the accessible pieces are things you need to do and look for, it becomes second nature and you will automatically incorporate it all the time 
    • 80/20 rule
      • People design for 80% of their audience but then would miss the other 20%
        • If you swap this and design for the 20%, then you will get the 80% since you made your content accessible for the marginalized
      • If no one is engaging with your content, then you will not meet your goals
    • People are not reading content online, they’re scanning for the content that they want
      • If you use strong calls to action then you can help guide people through and let them know where they are going
    • Incorporate various sensory materials
      • National Parks’ Instagram page is a great example of making accessible content for everyone
        • Great example of adding the alt text into the caption that describes the image plainly
  • Do you have an example of helping some members of your team see the value in using more accessible?
    • Audience is a key part of this 
    • Talking to your colleagues directly can help them understand what you mean and they will be more likely to take it and run with it
    • Accessibility content is not dumbing anything down
      • Using plain, simple language will make it easier for everyone to understand


October 4, 2023
10:15 am – 11:10 am
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