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Translation & Accessibility


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The Intersection of Translation and Accessibility in Digital Content

In the rapidly evolving digital age, ensuring digital content is universally accessible has become a paramount concern for organizations worldwide. The internet’s reach spans vast cultural and linguistic diversity, encompassing individuals with a wide range of disabilities. This article delves into the pivotal role of translation and other language services in enhancing digital accessibility and creating an inclusive online environment.

The Imperative for Accessible and Multilingual Digital Content

Organizations can significantly enhance their reach by creating a localized and accessible website that caters to the language and cultural preferences of the target audience as well as the usability needs of individuals with disabilities. The World Health Organization notes that people experiencing significant disability constitute 16% of the global population – one in six people. And accessibility features don’t just benefit those with disabilities; for instance, captions aid viewers in noisy environments and those who simply prefer reading along. Implementing digital accessibility practices broadens an organization’s audience, is required by law, and supports the principle that everyone deserves equal access to digital content and experiences.

And it’s not complicated. Integrating accessibility into the coding and design of a website and other digital content is a straightforward process that can significantly improve user experience, foster increased engagement, and even enhance SEO performance without substantially altering the site’s aesthetic.

Understanding Digital Accessibility

To navigate the digital accessibility landscape, it helps to understand some key terms such as ADA, Section 508, WCAG, and PDF/UA.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a key civil rights law since 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all public domains – including digital environments.
  • Section 508 complements the ADA by requiring that federal entities and those receiving federal funds ensure the accessibility of their digital offerings.
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer global standards for web accessibility, providing actionable recommendations to help organizations comply with ADA and Section 508 and align digital content with international best practices.
  • The PDF/UA standard specifies how to make PDF documents fully accessible and ensure they are navigable and interpretable by assistive technologies.

Incorporating Best Practices for Enhanced Digital Accessibility

To create a more inclusive digital world, adopting best practices is vital. The following strategies ensure that digital content and platforms are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities.

  • Accessible Navigation and Interfaces: Implement user-friendly navigation with clear labeling, consistent layouts, keyboard navigation capability, and voice command compatibility, ensuring all users can navigate efficiently.
  • Integration with Adaptive Technologies: Ensure digital platforms are compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers, braille displays, and speech recognition software, allowing individuals with disabilities to access content on their terms.
  • Text-to-Speech Compatibility: Support text-to-speech technology to convert digital text into spoken words, aiding users with visual impairments, reading disabilities, or a preference for auditory learning.
  • Universal Design Principles: Design digital environments to be usable by all people, accommodating a wide range of abilities, preferences, and ages.
  • Color Contrast and Visibility: Utilize WCAG guidelines for color contrast to improve readability for users with visual impairments or color blindness.
  • Mobile and Web Application Accessibility: Design mobile and web applications with accessible interfaces, screen reader support, and responsive design to accommodate various devices and screen sizes.
  • Inclusive User Testing: Engage users with disabilities in the testing process to uncover accessibility barriers and gather insights for more inclusive digital solutions.

Language Services: A Catalyst for Digital Inclusion

Language is crucial in making digital content accessible to non-English speakers and addressing cultural differences. Language Service Providers (LSPs) offer various services that support both linguistic and digital inclusion, ranging from subtitling and audio description to sign language interpretation. Such features not only facilitate access for individuals with disabilities but also cater to the preferences of a broader audience, expanding the reach of digital content.

Here’s a deeper look into how these services contribute to digital inclusivity:

  • Captioning: Captions are textual representations of audio dialogue and ambient sound (e.g. laughter, a door slam, thunder) that help viewers access video content without sound. While captions are critical for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, they can also benefit audiences with learning disabilities, those in noisy environments, or people who prefer reading to listening. (Subtitles focus on dialogue only, and translated dialogue in particular.)
  • Audio Description: Audio description adds a layer of inclusivity for individuals with visual impairments by offering detailed narrations of important visual elements in videos. These descriptions include explanations of scenes, facial expressions, and actions that are not verbally explained in the audio track. This service allows visually impaired users to form a mental image of the visual content, enhancing their understanding of the media.
  • American Sign Language (ASL): As the digital world becomes increasingly video-centric, the demand for sign language interpretation has grown on video and live stream platforms. This service is crucial for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, allowing them to access information on equal footing with hearing audiences.
  • Image Description (Alt Text): Image descriptions, or alt text, are brief descriptions of images used on websites and in digital documents. Screen readers read these descriptions aloud, enabling people with visual impairments to understand the images. On a multilingual website, alt text should be translated into the respective language(s), be culturally sensitive and descriptive, and incorporate relevant keywords. Crafting alt text that accurately reflects an image’s content and context makes the digital experience richer and more accessible for users relying on assistive technologies.

How Typesetting Supports Digital Inclusivity

Typography is crucial in creating accessible websites, ensuring content is easily navigable and legible for all users, including those with disabilities. Effective typesetting encompasses easy-to-read fonts, appropriate sizing, and consideration of line length and line spacing, while avoiding all caps and excessive use of italics or bolding.

Multilingual typesetting is an essential component in making content accessible across languages. Typesetters meticulously ensure that fonts correctly display all characters and accent marks, that punctuation and capitalization rules are applied accurately in each language, and that words and lines break in a way that respects the grammar and integrity of the language. They also navigate the challenges of bidirectional text and other language-specific typographical conventions and make necessary adjustments for text expansion or contraction.

Enhancing Readability: The Benefits of Large Print

Large print refers to formatting a print or digital document using large text (usually at least 18pt) and adhering to best practices and guidelines for large print documents, including appropriate spacing, style, and contrast. While large print documents enhance readability for individuals with partial blindness or visual impairments, they can also be helpful to senior citizens, people with dyslexia or eye strain, and ESL readers. However, it is important to note that large print is not beneficial for individuals who are blind; in such cases, digital documents, particularly PDFs, require screen reader tagging and other accessibility features to be fully accessible.

Moving Forward: A Call to Action

The intersection of translation and digital accessibility represents a vital step toward creating a more inclusive digital world. Eriksen helps our clients achieve this vision, offering expertise and comprehensive solutions to address the diverse needs of a global online community. Contact us to discuss your accessibility initiatives with a member of our team.

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