When I joined Enable India, I was confident I would learn how to write to a varied audience. Coming from a technical writing background, the ground rule was one: Understand the audience. In Enable India the audience can be categorized broadly into Visually Impaired, Hearing Impaired and Physically Disabled. There are more categories. Candidates or trainers who use our training material come from varied backgrounds. Some come from rural areas, some from semi-rural areas, and few from urban areas. Most understand only Basic English.
8 Tips to help with inclusive writing:
1. Right from the start one thing was clear: use simple English. Use simple verbs. For example- “show” instead of “express” or “articulate”. This also works for the hearing impaired since simple verbs are easy to express through sign language.
2. Use simple present tense, short sentences. For example- The wrong sentence would be: “Navigating using the short cut keys in MS Word will be saving a lot of time for the candidates.” The correct sentences: “In MS Word, candidates should use short cut keys. This helps them save time during navigation.”
3. Only one action or task in a sentence. Example: Wrong sentence: “Pressing Alt +N will close the window and take the focus out of the application and onto the open folder.” The correct sentences: “Press Alt+N to close the window and exit the application. This takes the focus to the open folder.”
4. Avoid a lot of white space in a document. It is very frustrating for the Visually impaired to keep hearing the screen reader announcing “blank blank blank ….“
5. Using captions for images so that our VI friends get an idea about what the image is about. I remember the first time I removed a line that described a photo in our newsletter! So non-inclusive that was!
6. Using appropriate text to announce a link or an answer. For example: Click on this link for more details. “Answer”: To save a Word document press Ctrl + S.
7. In MS PowerPoint, minimize using graphic shapes. Screen readers do not read text boxes inside some graphic shapes in the order they are displayed, even arrows are read as graphics! So that makes it very Visually Impaired unfriendly. Use title place holder, sub title place holder, object place holder instead.
8. One important change I had to do was to use “Press” instead of “click”. Clicking is more for mouse users. Visually impaired computer users use only the keyboard, so it is always pressing the keys for them
☺ Simple short sentences works for everyone across the globe, does it not? Fully inclusive ☺ There are many more, but will stop here. The learning continues……