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Blog: Making your communication more accessible

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Posted 3rd December 2019

On International Day of People with Disabilities, YSF Media Manager, Andy Morgan blogs about how communication can play its part in getting people more active.

When I visited the offices of International Mixed Ability Sport to record the latest episode of ‘The YSF Podcast’, one line in particular stuck with me.

“Clubs may be welcoming, but are they truly inclusive?”

Being inclusive doesn’t start when someone walks through the door of your club or leisure centre.  It includes the communication you put out to attract people to your club or session to get them to that point.  This is, of course, assuming you’ve done your research into the what, when and how the audience you’re aiming at want to be active.

At this early stage, I should probably admit that we’re not perfect.  For example, we absolutely could do more to make the communications we put out on social media more accessible and inclusive. Our website could be more user friendly. We know we need to be better.

In February, I was invited to the Royal National College for the Blind where I delivered some media workshops to players on the Goalball #FindTheNext talent camp, and it was then that the importance of accessible communication really hit home.

For those who don’t know, Goalball is a sport specifically designed for people with visual impairments.  Technology is improving all the time, but seeing just how difficult it was to sign up to Twitter as someone with a visual impairment was staggering.  It would take me, as someone fortunate to have good eye sight, a couple of minutes.  It took one of the players there the best part of ten minutes.  They’d probably have given up if I hadn’t been so keen to get them on there!

As well as sharing some of my knowledge, I sat and listened to their experiences of social media and to be honest, was embarrassed that we weren’t taking simple steps that could help those people experience media the way many of us take for granted.

The Activity Alliance’s ‘Access for all: inclusive communications’ guide and fact sheets are the oracle for all this and I strongly recommend you take a look. But here’s a few simple, practical things I see repeatedly.

  • Don’t put text over a picture. Make it a solid background or block of colour.  You and your designer might think your flyer looks pretty, but what’s the point if nobody can read it?
  • Use ‘alternative text’ on your pictures so those who can’t make out the picture, get a description. It takes 30 seconds at the most. Platforms like Facebook do it automatically, but not all do.
  • Use what’s known as camel case for hashtags. That means avoiding block capitals, and capitalising each word.  For example, what’s easier to read – #creatingactiveschools or #CreatingActiveSchools? Not only easier to read, but screen readers can distinguish between words. Otherwise you’ve wasted your time coming up with that great hashtag.

Those are just three, very simple steps. To repeat, at YSF we’re not perfect.  We might not get to perfection, but we’ll give it a good go at getting there. If you spot something we should be doing or could be doing better, please get in touch and let me know.

You might be responsible for your communications but you’re not a communications professional, so have you got the time?  Well, if you don’t make the time, there’s a decent chance you’re falling at one of the first hurdles of getting more people active.

It shouldn’t have taken my experiences with the Goalball players to realise that I was alienating a significant part of an audience who we know could benefit most from being active.

There are plenty of barriers to disabled people becoming active, and some are more difficult to overcome than others.  Communication shouldn’t be one of them.  An extra 30 seconds care and attention with your communication could be the first step to someone with a disability becoming more active.

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