I’m sometimes ridiculed, in a nice way of course, regarding how I write and the words I use. Comments I get are, “waaay too long”, “too many fancy words”, “did you stop to breathe?”, “paragraph breaks please”, and the best of all, “I needed something to put me to sleep”. Okay, I get it, but in all fairness to me, I do get complimented sometimes for my written work, and not just by my mother.
Since joining SenseAbility, I’ve come to understand what accessible language may look like and why it’s so important. Considering accessibility when we communicate with our business stakeholders, including employees, vendors, customers and funders can make a big difference to engagement and productivity in an organization.
What is accessible communication? The definition I like, is from the Ontario Council of University Libraries. It states, “Accessible communication benefits all audiences by making information clear, direct and easy to understand. It takes into consideration the various barriers to accessing information and provides opportunities for feedback.”
How often do we come across scholarly papers or policy documents where we toil through the written information, only to end up confused, frustrated, asleep at the desk, because the information was difficult to interpret? One could argue that there may be places and uses for such scholarly materials, but likely not in a business setting. Why? Because successful organizations employ unique individuals that come from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, circumstances, education and life experiences, including people with disabilities. Some or all of which informs different levels of communication and comprehension. If you’re not stating your strategic priorities, objectives, directives, and values, using clear, concise language, you may be excluding some of your stakeholders from the conversation, and missing important opportunities to capture valuable perspectives.
Language is an important part of the system of communication. As important are the methods by which we communicate. Building accessibility into those methods of communication is vital to making sure we are reaching the broadest possible audience. That means supporting accessibility, readability and usability into your systems of communications, including websites, apps, intranet, videos, print and presentation documents.
Here are some information sources to get you started thinking about how you communicate to your employees, customers and partners. Whether you’re an enterprise level corporation or a small business, communicating with accessibility first can make a big difference in your business.
- Canada.ca Content Style Guide
- Clear Print Accessibility Guidelines
- Top 10 tips for Microsoft style and voice
By the way, this blog may not be as accessible as I would have liked. Happily, the learning never stops. To join the conversation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.