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Why Your Digital Marketing Should Be More Accessible and How to Do It

By collegemktgrp | August 26, 2022 | Universities

In spring of 2022, over 16 million students enrolled in college across the country. Of those students, 17% of undergraduate students and 12% of post-baccalaureate students who were enrolled full-time reported having a disability.

This is a large segment of the college population likely underserved when it comes to having a fully accessible digital user experience from colleges they’re interested in.

Accessible marketing focuses on inclusive design that makes it possible for students of all abilities to fully engage with your school’s marketing channels. This means ensuring your school’s email content, social media content, blogs, and other forms of communication are accessible to those who have hearing, vision, communication, and motor challenges.

Accessible digital marketing has other benefits too — it can improve your SEO, as accessible websites are more likely to appear higher on search engine results pages. You’ll also attract a more diverse audience, and build a positive reputation for your university.

Here’s why accessibility in digital marketing matters for colleges and universities — and how to make sure your school’s digital presence is accessible for students of all abilities.

Why Accessibility in Digital Marketing Matters

People with disabilities are often underrepresented or skipped altogether in digital marketing. While diversity in ads, social media, and other on-site imagery is an issue across all sectors, technological accessibility is another area that’s repeatedly overlooked. 

College students have a wide range of disabilities that shouldn’t keep them from accessing your school’s information. Google has even optimized its search engine to favor websites that are more accessible to everyone — for example, with color choices, font sizes, and overall functionalities that don’t hinder users.

How to Make Your School’s Digital Marketing Accessible

Accessible design ensures that all students can process and understand the meaning of your digital marketing ideas — from social media posts to email marketing campaigns and blog content.

Ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re keeping accessibility in mind across all digital marketing channels:

  • How easy is your content to understand?
  • What colors and graphics will users see? How can they be explained or described in copy and alt text?
  • What sounds does your content produce in order to be understood?
  • What will users have to do in order to interact with your content? What movements will they need to perform?

Follow the tips below to make your digital marketing efforts more diverse, inclusive, and accessible to people with disabilities. 

1. Include Alt Text, Subtitles, and Transcripts on Every Video

It’s important to make your video content accessible for students who are deaf or otherwise have difficulty navigating video content. This can also support accessibility for those in noisy environments or who don’t speak English as their first language.

YouTube makes it easy to add subtitles to any video you upload. You have the option to automatically add captions as you’re working on your video in your YouTube Studio. Just be sure you watch the video with subtitles on and edit any misspellings or mispronunciations before publishing.

If you’re embedding a video into your blog or posting another type of media content (social media, for example), include the full transcription and alt text. 

People who use screen readers can have your content read to them without missing any important details. Alt text is typically used for images, but your videos should also include a description of its content so folks know exactly what they’re engaging with. 

There are plenty of programs out there that can do this for you, saving you time as you create and publish your content.

2. Use Headings and Subheadings Wisely

The structure of headings and subheadings is one of the most important elements of web design. It improves your website accessibility for those with disabilities, and makes your content better organized and easier to scan for all audiences. 

Headings help folks with learning disabilities or limited short-term memory better understand your content. And those using a keyboard to navigate your website can more easily hop from one section to another.

All headings and subheadings should be descriptive yet precise so users can understand the content of each section. If you don’t use headings appropriately, it can cause screen readers and devices to display your information incorrectly.

Follow this structure to adhere to the correct order of headings:

  • H1 elements: Page and post titles
  • H2 elements: Main headings
  • H3 elements: Subheadings (subtopics within your main topics)

3. Avoid Using Phrases Like “Click Here”

While phrases like “click here” or “learn more” sound actionable, they decrease overall usability and accessibility. This wording forces users to search around the hyperlink for other phrases to understand its context. 

Using terms like “click” also indicates a specific mechanical action for mouse users, which doesn’t resonate with readers or other touch devices. 

Instead, be descriptive with your hyperlinks and let the user know exactly what’s associated with the link. Use entire phrases and keywords that directly correlate to the next page, for example, “Learn How You Can Improve Your University’s Content Marketing Plan >”

Those without disabilities will also appreciate the time you’ve taken to clarify what the hyperlink is about!

4. Use Accessible Color Choices and Contrast

From a design perspective, all text should be easy to read. The most common form of color deficiency, red-green, affects about 8% of people worldwide. Using only these colors can hinder these people from understanding your content (especially when used to indicate required fields in a form).

If you’re unsure if the color combinations you’ve chosen are accessible, use a color contrast checker. These are super helpful in determining the legibility of your content (website, social media posts, emails, and other digital marketing assets) and whether there’s enough contrast between your text and background colors.

Other groups with disabilities can benefit from color when it’s used to organize your content. Use color and other visual indicators (like asterisks) to distinguish blocks of content from one another.

Also, pay attention to the size and style of your fonts. Opt for font types that are clear and spaced out like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Make sure the font is on the larger side (at least 16px for body text) and use bold to emphasize words and phrases rather than italics — bolded text stands out and is easier to read.

5. Address Different Reading Levels

The average American reads at a 7th–8th grade level, with 4% of the population considered non-literate. When your copy is overly formal, it can be difficult for students with developmental disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, and ESL students to understand your message. 

Optimize your content so that a more diverse audience can access it. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score can help you revise your content so that it meets a lower reading level. Some additional rules of thumb when writing your website copy:

  • Write in short, succinct sentences and paragraphs. 
  • Use a casual, conversational tone. 
  • Use contractions. 
  • Use active voice. 
  • Utilize a thesaurus to find simpler words if necessary. 

Improve Your School’s Website for Enrollment

The pandemic pushed schools to focus their recruiting strategies on digital marketing efforts. Today’s prospective students are likely to research your school online before applying, which makes accessibility best practices more important than ever.

On top of accessibility, ensuring your school’s website is optimized for a broader user experience is critical for reaching and recruiting more college students.

From mobile-first design to responsive chatbots, explore our go-to tips for making sure your university’s website is enhanced for college student enrollment this year.

How to improve your university’s website for enrollment >


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