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Learn how to become more inclusive with your messaging

How much does your message rely on others’ ability to see it? This is not a trick question. In your ad campaign, pitch deck, or webinar, did you create the messaging under the assumption that everyone in your audience will be able to view every image, figure, or visual metaphor clearly? If you have, there’s a chance you’re alienating a community of people with $1.2 trillion in spending power.

Understanding visual impairment

13% of the world’s population is visually impaired. This can include low visual acuity, blurred vision, loss of central or peripheral vision, or severe myopia or hypermetropia. This percentage does not take color-blindness into account, with 8% of men (and 4.5% of the overall population) experiencing some form of color blindness. Further, there are many parallels between socio-economic status, race, and disabilities like visual impairment. If you’re not marketing with accessibility in mind, you’re also inadvertently excluding groups based on race and class.

Many are aware of these statistics, but have you ever taken a moment to truly understand what that might mean for this audience? The figure below is an example of an Ishihara color test plate. While those with normal vision will see the number 74, many who are color blind will see the number 21. Those with monochromatic vision will not see a number at all because of the lack of contrast.

Ishihara color test plate 

How to become more inclusive in your messaging

There are countless resources on how to include this audience when you write and design your marketing content. I wholly encourage marketing professionals to learn the details of designing truly inclusive content by visiting, the site for the Web Accessibility Initiative, which provides every detail you need for true inclusivity. However, to get started on creating a truly inclusive experience, I recommend the following.

Don’t use color alone to convey information

Process and status charts with colored arrows and buttons with a rollover color change are two examples of frequently used methods of conveying critical action. However, this might leave as much as one fifth of your audience wondering what to do. Simply adding numbers to your colored arrows or including a text change to your rollover highlight can easily incorporate viewers with visual impairment or color blindness.

Make your native accessibility reader your best friend

The best way to ensure that someone’s experience lives up to your standards is by experiencing it the way that they do. Your computer or mobile operating system likely has a built-in accessibility reader. Use it during your quality control process.

Take a minute to add accessibility text to all your images

Whether your images help add context or a little extra flavor, don’t you want everyone to be clued in? Even if your images are only being used to add levity to your slide presentation, imagine not being able to see what everyone is laughing at? Adding text for accessibility readers is critical for those that have vision impairment.

Add captions to video – and proofread them

Captions are not just a must for those with vision impairment, viewers that speak other languages often find those captions helpful for ensuring their comprehension. When using auto-generated subtitles, however, be sure to proofread them and make any necessary changes.

Again, these are just some of the small actions you can take to make a big difference for your whole audience. It’s important to note that there are many invisible disabilities beyond vision impairment that should be considered. Many of your co-workers may even have a disability of which you are not aware.

I once created a presentation that would be reviewed by a company Vice President. Our team toiled over this presentation for weeks, which included critical information about our progress on several initiatives. When we finally presented our team’s state of the union to this VP, we got to the end and he mentions, ‘These ideas are great, but I expected to see progress.’ It turns out that this VP was red-green color blind and could not see much of the differentiation we were conveying through colored text and highlights. We wasted weeks of work getting this presentation together and squandered the short time we had with the VP. The presentation was a complete miss and we looked like an ineffective team.

Protect your hard work and build an inclusive message by embracing accessibility standards.

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