Downloadable: Inclusive Marketing Guide

Downloadable: Inclusive Marketing Guide

Gianna Callioni
. 22 Sep 2021 . 15 min read

Creating content that’s accessible and relevant to people with disabilities and impairments.

Inclusive marketing means you’re creating content that inherently reflects, respects and even celebrates the diversity in the communities you reach. You are promoting diverse voices, reducing bias and prejudice, and contributing to the social fabric of the country. Audiences are becoming less homogenous and it’s important to reflect that in how you think, work, and portray your brand.

Truly inclusive marketing isn’t just showing a mix of races or sexual orientations, and throwing in someone in a wheelchair for good measure. It’s about what you’ve done as a business as a whole to include your entire target market.

  • Is your website accessible to those who have vision impairments?
  • Have you involved diverse perspectives?
  • Have you created content in a variety of formats so anyone can enjoy it?
  • Do you use thoughtful language?

This guide includes information about creative practices to follow for accessible content, how to use inclusive language in your messages, and quick checklists for you to assess your content. In essence, the best way to make sure your content is inclusive is by working with a diverse team to create it. Whether it’s internal hires or interviews and focus groups, getting the opinions and input from those you’re trying to reach is critical.

64% of consumers took an action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive


A word from Gianna

Advertising can be powerful; it can make a true difference to the people who see it and are represented by it. As advertisers, we should choose to look beyond stereotypes to ensure that all people are represented as the unique, diverse individuals they are. We should also ensure we use language that doesn’t single anyone out based on ability or accessibility.

We have the opportunity to create content which celebrates our diversity and encourages people to feel comfortable about being their true selves. 

When brands create content that is not only inclusive, diverse, representative, and accessible, they’re telling the world that they care about everyone, not just a select group of people. It’s rewarding in more ways than one and gives you access to previously untapped markets.

Decision Making and Creative Teams

Inclusive and diverse creative teams are incredibly important for making sure your message and practices are well thought out. By bringing together individuals from all walks of life, you can increase productivity and creativity, and bring in broader ideas and unique perspectives. Most importantly though, it also means that your business isn’t leaving anyone behind. Remember that everyone deserves the same opportunities and experiences, no matter their background.

When building a diverse team, it’s important to consider both the inherent and acquired attributes that make us diverse. These include a range of things like age, gender, language, ethnicity, religion, personality, disabilities, and cognitive diversity. However, in this document we’ll look specifically at accessibility and disabilities.

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Creative Guidelines for Accessibility

Image Descriptions

Image descriptions are used to convey the facts of an image, either as plain text nearby or as alternate text in the HTML. They should always be separated from the rest of the text by symbols ({}, [], **) to announce their presence to screen readers and start with something like, ‘ID’, ‘ALT TEXT’, ‘IMAGE’. They’re purely for descriptive purposes, so keep them objective and not overly fluffed up.

Reasons for use:

  • Accessibility for blind and other internet users with vision impairments.
  • Accessibility for internet users with slow connections or limited memory.
  • Calling attention to important aspects of the picture.

Why it’s best not to use captions in HTML:

  1. Not all browsers support the same or any version of alt text which means not everyone will be able to access them.
  2. People who are browsing with image viewing turned off (those who may have slow connection or limited memory) but aren’t using a screen reader would have to search through the HTML to find the description.

Hashtags are a necessary part of using social media, but they weren’t designed in a way that’s easy to read. Using camel case hashtags, which capitalise every word, makes it easier to understand for people using screen readers, those with cognitive impairments like dyslexia, and even the general public.



As with hashtags, emojis are almost synonymous with social media and are frequently used in text that might otherwise seem quite monotonous. Unfortunately, they can cause confusion and annoyance for people who use screen readers.

For example, to someone reading the below caption it would appear as:

We had a great time today prepping for tonight’s party 🎉 We can’t wait to celebrate with everyone! Get ready to drink lots of wine 🍷 eat lots of food 🍝 and dance the night away 💃

But, for someone using a screen reader, it would appear as*:

We had a great time today prepping for tonight’s party party popper We can’t wait to celebrate with everyone! Get ready to drink lots of wine wine glass eat lots of food spaghetti and dance the night away woman dancing

Another common use case is as dot points for a list, like this:

These are some foods that you should avoid giving to your dog:
🍋 Lemons
🥑 Avocados
🧄 Garlic
🍗 Cooked bones

Which on a screen reader, reads as*:

These are some foods that you should avoid giving to your dog:
lemon Lemon
avocado Avocados
garlic Garlic
poultry leg Cooked bones

Try to only use emojis at the end of a paragraph or right at the end of the caption, to avoid confusing sentences. If you need to write a list, stick to dot points or dashes. Try to also avoid long strings of emojis because it can be annoying to be fed a string of seemingly random words.

*The labels will change depending on the operating system being used by each individual.


If you link externally to an image, video or audio file, consider adding a label so that people using a screen reader know what the link will take them to (e.g. [IMAGE], [VIDEO], [AUDIO]).

Avoid using videos (and audio) that automatically start playing on a website, as this can cause issues for people who have difficulties with attention, visual processing, migraines, or seizures.

They can also interfere with people using screen readers and make it difficult to even turn them off.

If there are frames in the video that include text, the text should be read by the narrator of the video.

If the video is informational with a lot of text, include a text transcript in a separate page or document which includes all information from the audio: dialogues, sounds, and descriptions of visual effects.

When it comes to captions, there are either closed captions or open captions. Closed captions can be turned on and off by the person watching the video, like what you get on YouTube, Netflix, and on TV. Open captions are burned into the video so that they can’t be turned off. These are particularly useful for social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram because there’s no option to turn them on or off.


Accessibility guidelines for websites are extensive and this section acts as an overview covering the main points to consider when developing a website. Please review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure your website meets minimum standards and requirements for accessibility.

Below are the top 10 Tips from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):

  • Provide Alt Text For all images, and alternative content for all other media.
  • Use external CSS for styling and layout and HTML for document structure.
  • Associate table headers with table cells, and use tables only for data. Include a table summary.
  • Provide a ‘skip links’ option to let a user skip repetitive content.
  • Do not use flash, frames, or tables for layout purposes.
  • Design for device independence. Don’t require a mouse and don’t require javascript to activate links etc.
  • Use simple language on your website, and specify the language used.
  • Make sure colours and fonts contrast sufficiently.
  • Do not fix a font size on your website. Use % or ems.
  • Use a fluid layout, using percentages or ems for width.
Colour Contrast

At a minimum, text and images of text must have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, unless it’s:

Large text: contrast ratio must be at least 3:1; or

Incidental text or logo text: these do not have any minimum requirements, but try to make sure that the contrast is always high where possible.

There is a Chrome Extension you can install, which breaks down all the elements on a website and shows you which meet the minimum requirements and which do not. Note: look for the red box to see which text it’s referring to and keep in mind that it doesn’t always accurately pull through the foreground and background colours, so they may need to be checked manually.

You can also use this contrast checking website to check colour contrast when deciding on colour schemes and combinations.


There is no single font type or size that’s suitable for every person. Some people are able to read san-serif fonts more easily, others serif, some can read small text, others need it to be a lot larger. In saying that, below are some guidelines to keep in mind when using text in graphics or on your website.

  • Avoid italics, as it can be harder to read for people with vision impairments, learning impairments, and dyslexia.
  • Don’t justify text to the right, as this can lead to variable spacing between words and create a phenomenon known as ‘rivers of white’.
  • Avoid using capitalisation for emphasis, as this can give the impression of shouting and be received poorly by some readers.
  • As mentioned previously, make sure your text always sits above the 4.5:1 minimum contrast ratio where possible.

It’s not just about disabled users being able to access your website — it’s about everyone being able to access your website.

Trenton Moss

Inclusive Language

With medical conditions, you’ll often see two types of language being used: person-first and identity-first. Depending on the condition being referenced, people in those communities often prefer one over the other and it can be offensive to use the wrong language. If you’re referring to a specific person, be sure to ask that person what their preference is. If you’re referring to a group of people, it’s best to use person-first language.

Person-first: a person with a disability

Identity-first: a disabled person

Always avoid connoting pity with language such as, ‘suffer from’, ‘a victim of’, or ‘afflicted by’, as it assumes that everyone with a disability is suffering or has a reduced quality of life. Instead, use neutral language and simply state the facts about the nature of the disability, e.g. “He has muscular dystrophy”.

The term ‘developmental disabilities’ may be used when referring to the group of conditions that arise due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behaviour areas. When referencing a specific impairment, however, use the specific name.

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To Wrap Up

True equality will always be a work in progress. It’s not something that’s going to be changed by token gestures or half-hearted attempts at inclusion. 

Following these guidelines is about more than just being a socially responsible organisation, it should be deep seeded into everything you do so you can give actual value to your audience and help drive change.

We would love to get the wider community’s input into these guidelines and tips, so we invite you to get in touch with additions or comments about what we’ve included in this document.

Get your full copy of the guide here!

The full PDF version of this inclusive marketing guide outlines specific tips and checklists to follow for each of the major topics we covered above. Get your free copy today by filling in the form below.

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    Why Your Marketing Strategy Should be Built Around Inclusivity

    Gianna Callioni
    . 05 Jul 2021 . 2 mins read

    What is inclusive marketing?

    Inclusive marketing is a combination of two key concepts: showing diversity and being accessible. One without the other is fine enough, but there are steps we can all take to make sure we’re being inclusive of both sides of the coin.

    If you want to show diversity, you need to show a range of ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, and more. If you want your digital presence to be accessible, you need to follow marketing best practices, like having high contrast text, captions on videos, and straight forward website navigation.

    Why is it important?

    It’s time we made an effort to deeply understand our customers; who they are, what their story is, and what they value. By understanding them and taking the time to reflect on the background of each choice we make, you can ensure people feel included by your work and not alienated.

    Inclusive marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought, an add-on, or a “nice to have”; it should be ingrained in every part of your marketing strategy. As society grows, it’s no longer just an option to be inclusive but rather that you’re, in most cases, expected to be. Did you know;

    • Over 65% of millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity? And,
    • 64% of consumers took an action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive?
    There are so many brands out there who don’t consider their potential audience; what they might look like, what their abilities might be, how they’re represented in the media. You can be the brand who does. It’s incredibly rewarding when you see how much people enjoy interacting with your brand on and offline when it may normally be inaccessible for them. It also helps expand your reach and lets you access previously untapped markets.

    Of course, every business has a target audience. It’s impossible for everyone to attract everyone and we’re not saying you need to. But, by subconsciously (or consciously) excluding certain people because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or even ability, you’re often unnecessarily reducing the size of your audience.

    People buy products to resolve a problem (whether real or perceived), so why not focus your messaging on resolving that problem instead of anything else? Think about how Woolworths recently renamed their “feminine hygiene/care” section to “period care” – this simple change aims to reduce the stigma associated with the term ‘period’ and means is more inclusive of those who get a period who don’t necessarily associate with the word ‘feminine’.

    We encourage you to think about your current marketing practices and digital presence. Are you happy with how you represent your audience? Can your audience easily access all of the content you produce?

    Your Guide to Inclusive Marketing

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    Need help creating an inclusive marketing strategy?

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