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Tips for Creating Accessible Outdoor Content

The outdoor community loves to share our adventures. Sharing our photos, videos, and stories helps create community and can nurture an appreciation for nature. Hello Ranger, after all, is built on the power of connecting through sharing content! Unfortunately, though, most online content remains inaccessible to disabled users. There are few accessible resources for people who are blind or low-vision, deaf or hard of hearing, autistic, or have a sensory disability. This means that not only are people with disabilities excluded from enjoying the outdoors, they are excluded from enjoying content about the outdoors. Creating accessible outdoor content is one important factor in building a more inclusive outdoor community.

Digital accessibility takes many forms, depending on the medium. It does take extra time to create, but whether you are a casual social media user, an influencer, or a journalist, we all have a responsibility to meet people’s access needs. Here, I provide a few simple tips for posting images and videos on social media and the web. For a more thorough overview with additional resources, check out my article on creating accessible outdoor content.

Three things you can do to make your content more accessible are: alt-text, image descriptions, and audio captions (there are more, but these are the three I encourage everyone to start with).

Alt Text
Alt text is a short description of your visual content that gets read by a screen reader in place of the image. It provides a way for the user to get a quick overview of the photo. It should be no more than 125 characters and is usually inserted in photo settings. You should use alt text on images posted to social media and the web. 

An example of alt text:

Mount Rainier rising above Reflection Lake. The glacier-capped mountain and a line of trees are reflected in the lake.

Photo by Syren Nagakyrie

Image Descriptions
An image description provides a full description of visual content. It should be used for photos and videos. Image descriptions should be no more than 250 characters, unless you are transcribing text, in which case the text should be provided in entirety. It is included in the caption, or in a comment on social media if the caption is too long.

An example of an image description:

Mount Rainier/Tahoma rising above Reflection Lake on a clear sunny day. The glacier-capped mountain is centered in the upper photo. Below the mountain is a line of trees on the lake shore. The lake is in bottom half of the photo. The lake is still and reflects the trees and mountain, mirroring the entire image.

Audio Captions
Captions are text displayed on a video in real time. They differ from subtitles, and include all of the relevant audio information, including speech, inflections, and other sounds. For example, a person sharing a story of a wildlife encounter might be captioned: [Syren in an excited voice: I was hiking on a trail, sampling some berries, and suddenly I heard a crashing noise in the forest!] [bear making low grumbling sounds] [Syren, chuckling anxiously: I had never encountered a bear before, but thankfully I knew the bear safety tips].

Audio and video content should also include transcripts and audio descriptions. For an example of a fully captioned, described, and transcribed video, check out my Access Nature video with Rooted in Rights.

Header photo: By Syren Nagakyrie

Syren Nagakyrie is the founder of Disabled Hikers, a community by disabled people for disabled people and allies. As someone with multiple invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses, they’ve found solace in nature since childhood, and shares stories of connection and belonging for people with disabilities while advocating for access and inclusion in the outdoors.

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