Inclusion and Accessibility for All
Media and mass communication can create, reinforce, and maintain collective worldviews. Unfortunately, much of this messaging has been established and controlled by individuals who hold power—using incomplete, limited, and/or inaccurate information. However, communications also have the ability to challenge these collective worldviews and transform them into ones that are more equitable and just. We all have a responsibility to communicate from a global inclusion, diversity, belonging, equity, and access (GIDBEA) lens. This requires an ongoing commitment to constant and active reflection, education, discussions with diverse groups of people, and more.
There is no all-encompassing list of things to do (or not do) to ensure “good public-facing communication”—checklists, current terminology, tips, and best practices shift/change over time, and application is often context-specific. Instead, we provide a working list of key questions/reflection points that we use to guide the creation of our various communications. These questions and points of reflection are intended to help unpack individual and collective biases that have been shaped by these communications. And, for instances where current terminology is needed, we do our research. Ideally, this research may include understanding what language and visuals resonate most with the communities you are communicating about on a local, national, and global scale; connecting with particular identity-based groups; reading current news relevant to those communities; conducting focus groups; engaging key stakeholders and university content experts; and connecting with GIDBEA-related groups/committees. Additionally, Google is a great resource for getting a broad range of perspectives in a short time frame.
Who are the stakeholders of this communication?
Should this communication be co-constructed?
Who will be named as the sender of this communication?
- Co-constructing communication with particular stakeholders may expand the audience of a message to key communities that often get left out and may enhance the content of the message.
- Thoughtful communication takes an immense amount of time, expertise, and partnership that is not always fully understood. Remember to connect with stakeholders about how to best reflect and credit their partnership and labor in co-constructing communications and related actions.
Have I done thorough research on the content I am sharing?
Whom did I consult for feedback?
Whom might I have missed—stakeholders?
- What are the lived experiences—including privileges, biases, and assumptions (we all have them)—that I bring to my work and may be at play within this particular communication? How do I ensure they are in check?
- Photos, graphic designs, and/or color schemes tend to be shaped by our own personal understanding of how we think about a topic or community. What intended and unintended messages are our visual communications sending? How have we ensured that our choices collectively reflect and resonate with our diverse audiences without tokenizing?
Is the language we're using at this moment, for this specific context, most inclusive and accurate to what we want to convey?
Is the language we’re using when talking about particular communities asset-based or deficit-based (e.g., “BIPOC” vs. “racial minority”)?
Have I checked my terms/words within the context?
- Language is contextual and should always be used as specifically/accurately as possible. A term may be appropriate for one context but not another; pay particular attention to global and cultural contexts.
- For example: Am I using body-centric language when communicating to a large audience with a variety of unknown abilities? Some phrases to avoid may include, “We look forward to hearing from you,” “We stand with you,” “Make your voice heard.” Instead, consider, “We are excited to engage with you,” “We are in solidarity with our communities,” “Get involved,” “Share your feedback.”
What are the goals/desired outcomes of this communication?
Why is this communication being posted/created at this moment (when it may not have been in the past) and within what framing?
- Recognition and visibility are important. However, institutional gestures may come across as empty or self-serving if they are not accompanied by deeper discussion/actions that indicate a true commitment to honoring that community’s history and moving global inclusion, diversity, belonging, equity, and access forward for that community.
- For something like history/recognition “months,” “weeks,” and/or “days,” do we as a group/organization have a history of doing related work that serves this community outside of that specific time frame? Will we do anything else moving forward?
- If we don’t have a history of honoring/serving a particular community but our goal is to start doing so, what is our plan of action in place—before putting out the statement—to ensure we can carry that forward and not just have it become an empty statement (as so often is done by organizations that make statements to email subscribers and/or on items to sell as a proxy for real thoughtful and thorough commitment)?
- What are additional opportunities, through upcoming programs/events and communications, to revisit and communicate progress on action that was committed to in previous communications?
- As a school/department/group focused on serving a diverse community, are we able to commit to continuously recognizing all of these history-, heritage-, and identity-based months in ways that show equivalence (e.g., funding, space, time)? We may not be able to cover everything, so which ones are we choosing to focus on and why (going back to the original goals for a particular communication as well as larger access, equity, and/or justice goals)?
Who is centered in this communication?
Are we clearly naming the specific community we intend to center in this communication (e.g., naming Native and Indigenous communities explicitly when communicating about violence against Native and Indigenous communities versus using “BIPOC”)?
- If the communication is meant to address or acknowledge a historically marginalized community/group, take notice of the ways it may be decentering said historically marginalized community/group and/or “othering” a group.
- When making statements of solidarity with a particular community/group without proper and intentional wordsmithing, using words such as, “our,” “we,” and “us” may create a “them” or “other” dynamic—meaning we make the assumption that particular communities are not already part of the NYU community/institution. So, it is important to closely consider sender identity, positionality, power dynamics, and the like when making word choices. For example, when making a statement such as, “We are in solidarity with the Asian community,” who is the “we” that is being referred to? Would it make sense to instead specifically name whom the “we” encompasses?
Have we considered how intersectionality may complicate or nuance our communications?
- For example, a common narrative around pay disparities centers on women being paid less than men, traditionally pulling from a dataset overrepresented with white women. Less common attention is given to how women of color, trans women, and women with disabilities experience pay disparities, which may be an important note to highlight in a given communication about pay disparities.
Remember, producing thoughtful communications is an ongoing, reflective process that requires comprehensive intentionality. There is a wealth of information out there that outlines how to create inclusive, intentional communications. Do your research regularly, and remember to consult with relevant content experts, including institutional and community leaders. Much of our shared language has been shaped by people who hold power; keep asking yourself questions that dig deeper into the root of words and their meanings. Challenge your assumptions. What might be “acceptable” today, may not be applicable tomorrow. “Best” ways of communicating about different identities and experiences that are not your own are always evolving, and as a communicator with a platform, you have a responsibility to keep evolving alongside.
NYU is committed to supporting an information technology environment that provides individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate in the University’s programs, benefits, and services that is equal to that of their peers without disabilities.
Inclusive design considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference.
For communicators, inclusive design means creating content that’s accessible to all people, including those with disabilities and impairments.
Page Title: Is your page title unique and clear?
Page Layout: Is your page content presented in a logical flow and organized using headings?
Heading Size: Do headings descend in a logical way (e.g., H2, H3)?
- HTML heading elements also help assistive technology users navigate and orient themselves within a page.
- Include only one H1 tag for each web page.
Link Text: Does your link text describe the destination clearly?
- When adding links to your website or document, it is important that the links are descriptive and provide informative context for the site visitor. This allows the site visitor to have a better understanding of the link’s destination.
- Link text should make sense out of context.
Text Readability: Is text concise on the page and easy to read?
- Centered text can be difficult for users with cognitive or learning disabilities. However, you can center single line headlines above content. In addition, content that wraps to more than two lines should be aligned left. You should also steer clear of copy that is justified center or aligned right and text in all capitals.
- Sans serif fonts are preferred for accessibility. They are easier to read for those with vision loss and cognitive disabilities and anyone reading on a digital device. Ensure that:
- Text is sized for legibility (i.e., minimum 12 to 14 pt for body text)
- Text styling (e.g., boldface type, italics, color) is not the only means to convey meaning
- There is sufficient contrast between text and background colors
Images: Do all images have alt text (including “null” for decorative images)?
Infographics: Is there a full-text explanation for infographics?
Color: Do your graphics convey their message without relying on color?
Videos: Do you have captions or transcripts for spoken word and audio descriptions for information provided visually?
- Imagine watching a movie without the audio, or listening to dialogue without watching the screen; it would be difficult to understand the full context of the movie.
- Video and audio should not autoplay
- Media includes controls to allow the user to stop/start playback
- Audio files, such as podcasts, should include transcripts
Color Contrast: Is there sufficient contrast between text and background colors?
- Make sure your text has a high enough color contrast with the background color. You can use a color contrast checker to determine if the combination is compliant.
- Be sure not to use color alone to differentiate things. Links should use more than color for differentiation (e.g., an underline). Descriptive text should accompany icons and alerts.
Keyboard Operations: Is it possible to operate all active elements using the keyboard?
- People who are unable to use a mouse or see the screen need to access all website content and functionality through their keyboard alone.
- When an active element on a web page can only be operated using a mouse, and it’s not possible to use the keyboard to move focus to or activate the element, people who don’t use a mouse will be unable to access information or functionality.
Form Prompts: When form field labels are eliminated and only feature placeholder text, keyboard-only users and people with cognitive impairments may have challenges with form prompts.
- When designing forms, note that:
- Form labels should not be replaced with placeholder text
- Light gray placeholder text has poor color contrast against most backgrounds
- Not all screen readers can read placeholder text aloud