Apr 16





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Building Bridges through Inclusive Digital Communication

AI generated image of multiple digital devices littered on a table

Human existence spans millions of years, a period that has seen communication undergo a profound transformation. From drawings in the early days to the usage of smoke signals, our communication journey has traversed an extraordinary path to arrive at the present era. Today, we enjoy a rich tapestry encompassing diverse modes of interaction.


Communication, a fundamental aspect of human interaction, has evolved with the advent of technology. Digital communication, the use of electronic means to send and receive information, is now a ubiquitous part of our lives. But have you heard of Inclusive Digital Communication? It is a powerful concept that ensures everyone can participate fully in the digital world regardless of their communication needs. It entails the usage of digital media to pass information across in a way that is accessible and understandable to the audience, making sure that everyone is carried along regardless of their background, identity or status. 


According to the NHS UK, “Inclusive communication means communicating with individuals using the most appropriate means for them. For example, we often use signs to request a drink in a noisy pub, use a drawing to give directions to where we live or recognise someone from the smell of their perfume. For some people with communication difficulties, these ‘added extras’ are a vital part of their understanding and expression.”


As digital platforms become a major means of communication, it is important that the means do not negate the importance and necessity for individuals to carry along as many people as possible. This, for instance, creates a need to ensure that people from all walks of life, more so those in rural areas with limited digital bandwidth, can access messages as easily as those in areas with strong internet access and infrastructure.


Highlighted below are a few major pointers that can help us communicate digitally. 

Be respectful 
A vital part of making sure communication, whether digital or physical, is inclusive is the usage of respectful language. A considerable number of organisations have devoted their time and effort to putting together guides that can steer communication in this regard.  Good examples are the UN’s Disability Inclusive Language Guidelines and USAID’s Disability Tips. The disability guidelines are aimed at removing barriers and engaging persons with disabilities in all spheres of work and life in order to achieve sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion. Indicator 15 on communication, in particular, requires that internal and external communications should be respectful of persons with disabilities.

It is important to understand that the Internet is a global village, and outside the primary target audience, the message is going to be available to many other people who might be oblivious to the local context. Therefore, the following considerations should be considered if communicators are to cater to all stakeholders.

  • Usage of inclusive language in communication.
  • Avoid typing in all caps, as in most instances, this is often frowned upon. 
  • Wherever possible, it is best to avoid acronyms and abbreviations and explain what they stand for if one must use them.
  • Avoiding ambiguous emojis as they might be hard to understand or might mean different things in different contexts.


Communicate with visuals

Inclusive digital communication involves the art of passing a message across and what better way one can get their message across than through the usage of visuals? As much as possible, it is important to use visual elements in communicating, ensuring that whatever visuals are utilised have a proper contrast ratio and add more clarity to the bottom line of the topic being discussed, keeping a proper etiquette to ensure the context is clear and concise while making sure there is adequate provision for subtitles and proper descriptions for people who might not be able to access visual materials. 

While classifying emojis under visual communication, the following ground rules can be applied.

  • Usage of emojis instead of emoticons wherever possible, as they are easier to pick up by assistive devices.
  • Avoiding the usage of emojis alone to communicate important messages.
  • Testing visibility in light and dark mode.
  • Usage of emojis at the end of texts instead of in the middle or beginning for ease of legibility.


Utilise available tools and features for effective communication

As mentioned earlier, there has been a migration of communication from traditional mediums to more digital mediums, which has provided an advantage as this allows for channels to be regulated to make their mediums as accessible as possible for social media.

Features such as “Alt texts and captions” are great ways to utilise already created tools for effective communication.  For websites; ensuring scalability, adopting proper colour contrast, using the respective tags for respective elements, optimising page speed and labelling images and links correctly are all ways to allow maximum accessibility of such resources.


Use other forms of tech communication

If we say the goal of inclusive digital communication is to get the message to as many people as possible, then it is important to infuse creativity and make the message or platforms accessible on as many forms of digital channels and tools as possible. Websites that are scalable and light enough to be accessed via different devices, regardless of the speed of connectivity, are great examples. Websites can be accessed via mobile phones and laptops, but these days, they can also be accessed via smart televisions (TVs) and car dashboard screens.

Seek and implement feedback

Communication is a two-way street, and there is no communication without listening; therefore, it is important that there are constant interaction and feedback sessions from the users of digital technology for communication, the creators of these technologies and the consumers of such products.

In a world where the dynamic nature of communications consistently comes to the fore, the above tips are but the tip of the iceberg. The challenge before us lies in constantly adjusting and making room for more inclusive ways of communicating today and always.


The writer is a Communications Officer at Paradigm Initiative

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