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Making Evaluation Communication Inclusive: Some Accessibility Considerations by Sanela Muharemovic

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Please note that today’s blog was originally posted on Chris’s website.

Hello. I am Sanela Muharemovic, and I’m a research analyst in the Office of Evaluation at the World Food Programme. My team, the Research and Analytics Unit, facilitates access to evaluative data and helps to improve the use of data and analytics in WFP’s centralized evaluations.

Inspired by WFP’s Disability Inclusion Road Map, and as part of our work investing in data visualization for evaluation, we have started to reflect on how we can make our reports, briefs, slides and infographics more accessible to people with disabilities. Data visualization is a great way of efficiently conveying the results of a quantitative analysis, and smart dataviz can be a powerful communication tool. The limitation is obvious, but easily overlooked: as it is a visual tool, it excludes the blind and otherwise visually impaired readers.

Of course, visual impairment is only one of the factors leading to exclusion, and the efforts to make evaluation community disability-inclusive must go beyond. However, this is not an all or nothing situation. Every barrier you address is one person excluded less. The important thing is to start somewhere and do what you can. So what can you do?

Cool Trick

Test your dataviz for colour blindness. A red-green gradient choropleth map is very pretty, but not everyone can appreciate it equally. The inability to distinguish red and green is the most common type of colour vision deficiency. There are other types, but luckily there are applications and websites to help you both simulate how a colour-blind person will see your graphic, and resources to help you generate colour blind-friendly gradients and palettes. See Rad Resources below.

Hot Tip #1

Include alt text in all your graphics. Short for “alternative text”, alt text is a short, clear description of an image, chart, map or another visual component (even video!) that is accessible to the on-screen narrator/screen reading app, which reads it out for accessibility purposes. Of course, alt text does nothing in a printed publication, but as most evaluation products are available as online resources, alt text in fact goes a long way to making them accessible. Commonly used software like Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat and InDesign all support alt text. And for communication of images on social media, so do Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!

Hot Tip #2

Use sans-serif font in your graphics titles, axis labels, value labels and other text. Serif is the short line, a “foot” or an “ear,” added at the end of each long line of a letter. Serif typeface can look very pretty in graphic design but at the cost of reduced legibility. For that reason, either replace it with sans-serif or ensure that the font size and spacing between letters are optimal for readability. For the same reason, avoid italics and bold where they compromise readability, and ensure good contrast between in-chart text and background colour.

Hot Tip #3

Avoid visual clutter. Too many components, very small components, too many colours, too many lines… not only will this make the dataviz uninterpretable, but it may distract from the rest of the report and sabotage the message being conveyed. Although this is general good practice in data visualization, it becomes especially important for communicating to visually impaired readers. 

Rad Resource #1

Coblis is an online tool that lets you upload an image and see what it looks like to people with various types of colour vision deficiency.

Rad Resource #2

Adobe Color helps you generate a colour blind-friendly palette.

Rad Resource #3

Here are some useful tips on writing good alt text for images, including describing graphs.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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