Top Tips for Accessible Marketing

In July, Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited presented at The Art of Connectivity, the 10th annual Marketing Summit of the Australia Council held in Hobart, Tasmania. Her presentation on Connecting Diversity spoke broadly about why connecting with all audiences, including disabled people, was so essential for the ecology of the arts.

If you want to see the whole presentation – it’s here:

Following this, and constant requests on Twitter, Jo created her top marketing tips for arts marketeers which she shares with us here…

Since speaking at the Marketing Summit in Australia, I’ve been asked a few times for my top marketing tips for reaching disabled people – so in the spirit of international cooperation, these are my tips for making your main marketing materials more accessible.

As I said when I spoke – my key concerns are:

  • Can I open it
  • Can I read it
  • Can I find the info I need
  • Can I understand it?
  • Is the event it’s marketing accessible to me?
  • Is it for me? And people like me?
  • And don’t forget too – if the info wasn’t right in front of me, would I have been able to find it/get my hands on it in the first place.

Here we go…

1: Get the basics right
Access for disabled people is often about getting your main marketing materials right, not just about alternative formats. As Emma Bennison says: “Unfathomable marketing speak in standard print doesn’t become more readable in braille; it just takes you longer to get annoyed!”

2. Don’t assume all disabled people see themselves as disabled people
Loads don’t – think about my mother! She has a range of impairments in relation to aging but would never think to look at a page labeled ‘disability information’.

3. Think about the words you use (1)
Different people do like different things – speak to your audience. Why not…

  • Get a language guide together so all the organisation uses the same language and more importantly know why
  • In the UK, its more acceptable to say disabled person than person with a disability; in Australia person with disability seems to be the preferred term – check out the language your audience uses
  • In the UK we also prefer wheelchair user not wheelchair bound, learning disability not mental handicap, visually impaired people not ‘the blind’ – again, preferred terms vary from country to country, and sometimes within the country too.

4. Think about the words you use (2)
Keep it simple and keep it short. Why not check your reading age in Microsoft Word to get your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (the school year your writing is suitable for). Add 5 to this to get the reading ‘age’ – you should aim for a reading age lower than 13, or 8 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale (these notes are graded as 5.3).

5. Think about your design
You can make your marketing and website attractive and accessible – they aren’t mutually exclusive. Space is great – keep it clear and simple. Leave space between paragraphs and keep your paragraphs short.

6. Think about images
Images are great – they can support meaning when chosen well, and illustrate your commitment if you have pics that include disabled people or access provisions. Avoid putting text over images, unless you use a ‘layer’ between the text and the image to ‘smooth’ the image so the text can be read more clearly.

7. Don’t make text too small or too fussy
I like to use text at 14 point (12 point is the absolute minimum for me to be able to read in the bath!). Avoid italics, serif or ‘handwritten’ fonts or capitals for long, continuous text – no one can read them!

8. Think about contrasts
Contrast between colours and text should be at least 25% – so no pale colours on a pale background however pretty it looks. Think too about colour blindness and the colours that most often confused (red and green, for example).

9. For printed materials, think about your paper
Highly glossy papers can be too reflective, low paper weights mean text can show through from the reverse and be too flimsy to hold, and complex folds can obscure text. Too big and I can’t unravel it; too small and you won’t be able to get a decent font size on it.

10. Get it right online from the start
Build access into your web design brief – check out the WC3’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI and their A, AA or AAA rating. For more information, visit:

11. If you haven’t, check out how good or bad you are
The Worldwide Web Consortium (WC3) have a list of web accessibility evaluation tools on their website: AI/ER/tools/

12. Or do some basic checks yourself
Pick a page, does it look the same using a range of web browsers? Is it still readable using larger font sizes? Can you resize the window and still read everything? If you change the display colour to grey scale can you still? Try navigating without a mouse… Try using a voice browser or a text browser (Google them to find free options)… How about turning off the sound?

13. When writing for the web…
Use even simpler words, even shorter text and if you have images, make sure you offer a text alternative that describes the picture (the title is not enough!).

14. Think about links
Make them usable – what does ‘click here’ mean?? How about “click here for more details of our next show” instead?

15. Consult, consult, consult
Consult with disabled people – this is key – not just to getting it right but to building audiences too.

Of course, don’t forget alternative formats too! But that’s another post…