We explain what it means to be inclusive and accessible in society and share seven ways to facilitate this in communities
Shifts in attitudes and advancements in technology are helping to shape a more accessible society, but the world is still inaccessible for many people. We need to strive for a world where inclusivity is at its heart — where everybody feels seen, heard, respected, valued and understood. But what exactly does this mean and how do we achieve it?
What does it mean to be inclusive?
Being inclusive means embracing all individuals regardless of race, gender, disability, belief and other characteristics. It’s about giving everybody an equal opportunity to participate in society and thrive by removing barriers.
"Diversity is being invited to the party: Inclusion is being asked to dance" — Verna Myers
What does accessibility mean?
Being accessible means something is easy for anyone to ‘enter, use, reach or obtain’. This could be ensuring there is disabled access to buildings or that content can be easily navigated online. Accessibility is about designing ways that allow people to access information, products or services easily. At the core of accessibility is making sure it can be used by as many people as possible.
The social model of disability
The social model of disability is a way of viewing the world. It notes that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers could be physical, such as not having disabled access to buildings, communicative or attitudinal.
We recognise that there are many terms used when talking about disability. Here, we use the term ‘disabled person/people’ but you may prefer to use ‘person with a disability’, ‘wheelchair user’, ‘differently-abled’, or other terms. Please use whatever language you feel comfortable using and when communicating with a disabled person, take note of their individual preferences.
7 ways to create more inclusive and accessible communities
According to Scope, a leading disability equality charity in England and Wales, five million people in the UK have a learning disability, around one in 10 have dyslexia and two million people have a visual impairment. So, what steps can we take to support people who aren’t living the typical experience?
1. Consider your language
It’s important to make sure that the language we use in day-to-day life (whether at work or home) is clear and easy to understand. Try to use plain English, which can be read and digested quickly and easily.
2. Page formatting
When thinking about how your pages are laid out, consider headings, images, text size and colour. Using these effectively will make it much easier for your content to be translated by accessibility tools like screen readers. Here are some things to consider:
- Headings help break up text into chunks — use titles, headings and subheadings.
- Text should be a minimum font size of 12 — ensure flexibility by allowing users to adjust the text size as needed.
- Colour contrast is important when it comes to accessibility — it can be hard for some people to tell colours apart. Consider this when putting text against a white page or text in front of a background, for example.
- Images should contain alt text — make sure it describes the image in enough detail, whilst being sure not to include too much unnecessary information.
3. Ask questions
In a training session from the brilliant Samantha Renke, Samantha told Happiful, “If you’ve met one disabled person you’ve met one disabled person.” Not every disabled person is the same, and needs will change for each person. If you want to know if there’s anything you can do to make something easier for them, ask, respect their response, and don’t assume that this will be the same each time.
This also applies to how that person would like to be identified. For example, would they prefer for you to use person-first language (person with a disability) or identity-first language (disabled person)?
4. Think from a different perspective
It can be easy to take for granted the things we encounter day to day. Try to think about whether that thing you’ve encountered could be a barrier for someone else and if it is, speak out and try to encourage change.
5. Challenge and avoid using harmful stereotypes
Even today, it’s very common for people to misuse phrases related to disability. For example, saying someone is “blind” or “deaf” because someone couldn’t see or hear you. This language can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, so be sure to consider your choice of words.
6. Use different content formats
Using different forms of content is a good way to cater to different preferences. This could be using a mixture of written content, audio (podcasts), videos, infographics, etc. People digest information in different ways, so this helps your content reach a broader audience. When using images, audio and video content, be sure to use alt text, captions and transcripts.
7. Be an advocate for accessibility and inclusion
Whilst there are several ways to improve accessibility and inclusion physically and digitally, the biggest barrier that remains is people’s attitudes towards difference. Addressing these attitudes will ultimately make the greatest difference, but only if you truly listen to disabled people.
- Open up the conversation around disability and accessibility so it becomes the norm.
- Support communities that promote accessible products and services.
- Offer reasonable adjustments.
- If you see something inaccessible, speak up.
- Educate others about what accessibility means and the importance of it.
- Learn more about accessibility online with W3.org
- July is Disability Pride Month - find out how to get involved.
- Find out how Scope can support your business with disability inclusion.