Accessibility in Development Communication: Making Information Available to Everyone

By: Aanchal Madaan

Accessibility signsHave you ever come across these symbols shown in the image? Probably, some of you can relate to having accessed the same. For many, these symbols are the way of living life to ensure their social participation, exercise human rights, and reach their full human potential. These are the symbols associated with providing access to people with disabilities.

Let me describe the symbols in the image.

  • The person in a wheelchair indicates space is accessible for a person with a disability
  • Raised dots indicate the availability of Braille for a person with blindness or low vision
  • An ear with a diagonal line is an indication of accessibility for people having hearing issues,
  • Two hands with extended fingers and thumbs symbolize sign language
  • An eye with a diagonal line is a symbol of invisibility
  • CC is a symbol for closed captioning in videos.

These are ways to make the world accessible, especially in terms of communication. This is crucial to understand for development communication professionals as well. 

What is Development communication? 

Development communication is all about providing information and promoting social change. The goal is to inform and educate people about various issues related to development, including health, education, and livelihood. However, for this information to be effective, it needs to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Development communication is a field of study and practice that focuses on the use of communication strategies and tools to promote social and economic development. It involves the use of various communication channels and technologies, such as radio, television, print media, and the internet, to engage and empower individuals and communities to participate in the development process.

According to Everett M. Rogers, a renowned communication scholar, the goal of development communication, is to facilitate social change and improve people’s lives through the use of communication.

Accessibility in development communication is crucial to ensure that no one is left behind. People with disabilities are often at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing information. This is because many development communication initiatives are not designed with their needs in mind. As a result, they miss out on critical information that could help them improve their lives.

Why make communication accessible?  

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory, under Article 9 casts an obligation on all the signatory governments to take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to:

The physical environment,
Information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and
Other facilities and services are open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.

Identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility is an important role of the State.


“Communication” includes means and formats of communication, languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, signs, large print, accessible multimedia, written, audio, video, visual displays, sign language, plain language, human-reader, augmentative and alternative modes, and accessible information and communication technology. 


Accessibility in development communication.


What is Accessibility in Development Communication?

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments that are accessible to people with disabilities. In development communication, accessibility means making sure that information is available to everyone, regardless of their abilities. This can include people who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, or have cognitive, motor, or speech impairments. Read More HERE

In practical terms, this means, creating information in different formats that are accessible to people with different disabilities. For example, providing audio descriptions of visual content for people who are blind or have low vision, captions or sign language interpretation for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and easy-to-read text for people with cognitive or learning disabilities.

Why is Accessibility Important in Development Communication?

Accessibility is essential in development communication because it ensures that information, resources, and tools are available and usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Accessibility promotes inclusivity and diversity. 

Firstly, accessibility promotes inclusivity, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their physical, cognitive, or technological limitations, have equal access to information and communication. This helps to eliminate any form of discrimination and promotes diversity in the development process. It ensures that people with disabilities have access to the same information as everyone else. This is important because people with disabilities are often among the most marginalized and disadvantaged in society, and they are more likely to face poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion. By designing development communication initiatives that are accessible to people with disabilities, we create a more diverse and inclusive society. This helps break down barriers and promotes social cohesion.

Accessibility increases the effectiveness of communication. 

Secondly, by making information and resources available in multiple formats and languages, developers can reach a wider audience, increasing the potential impact of their work. It can help to improve the quality of information. By designing information that is accessible to people with disabilities, we create information that is easier to understand and use for everyone. This can help to improve the overall quality of information and make it more effective in promoting social change.

How Can Development Communication be Made Accessible?

Making development communication accessible requires a conscious effort to design information with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. Here are some key steps that can be taken to make development communication more accessible:

1. Provide information in alternative formats

Alternative formats are formats that are different from the standard print format, and are designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. Here are some examples of things that are available in alternative formats:

  • Braille books: Braille books are designed for people with visual impairments, and are printed in raised dots that can be read with the fingertips.
  • Easy to read text: Large print books are designed for people with visual impairments who may have difficulty reading standard-sized print. These books have larger text and more white space, making them easier to read.
  • Audiobooks: Audio books are designed for people with visual impairments, dyslexia, or other reading difficulties. They are read aloud and can be listened to on various devices.
  • Tactile maps: Tactile maps are designed for people with visual impairments, and provide a physical representation of geographic features through raised lines, textures, and braille labels.

2. Making web content accessible

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that web content is accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG provides a framework for web designers and developers to create websites that can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities.

The guidelines cover a wide range of topics, including text alternatives for non-text content, keyboard accessibility, color contrast, and providing clear and concise instructions. Here are some brief recommendations based on WCAG:

  1. Sign language videos: Sign language videos are designed for people with hearing impairments, and provide visual interpretation of spoken language through sign language.
  2. Closed captions: Closed captions[CC] are text captions that appear on video content, and are designed for people with hearing impairments.
  3. Accessible PDFs: Accessible PDFs are designed for people with visual impairments, and include features such as alt text, tags, and headings to make them accessible for screen readers.
  4. Provide alternative text for images and non-text content, such as videos and audio files, to ensure they are accessible to those using screen readers or other assistive technologies.
  5. Use headings and subheadings to create a logical and well-structured hierarchy of content that can be easily navigated by people using screen readers or other assistive technologies.
  6. Ensure that color is not the only way of conveying information. Use other visual cues such as icons, patterns or shapes.
  7. Make sure that keyboard navigation is possible and that all functionality is available through keyboard commands.
  8. Use clear and simple language to make content easier to understand.
  9. Avoid using flashing or blinking content that can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.
  10. Provide multiple ways to navigate the content, such as a sitemap or search functionality



3. Using Assistive technologies 

Assistive technologies are devices, software, or equipment that are designed to help people with disabilities interact with the digital world. Here are some examples of assistive technologies:

Screen readers: Screen readers are software programs that read out the text on a computer screen, enabling blind or visually impaired users to access digital content.

Braille displays: Braille displays convert digital text into braille, allowing people who are blind or visually impaired to read and navigate digital content.

Voice recognition software: Voice recognition software allows users to control their computer or other devices using spoken commands.

Text-to-speech software: Text-to-speech software converts written text into spoken words, making it easier for people with reading difficulties or visual impairments to access digital content.

Magnification software: Magnification software enlarges text and graphics on a computer screen, making it easier for people with visual impairments to see them.

Alternative input devices: These are devices that enable users to interact with computers and other devices using alternative methods such as switches, joysticks, or trackballs.

Closed captioning: Closed captioning is a feature that displays text on a video screen, providing access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Voice amplifiers: Voice amplifiers are small devices that amplify and clarify sound, making it easier for people with hearing impairments to hear.

Adaptive keyboards: Adaptive keyboards have special features that make them easier to use for people with motor disabilities, such as oversized keys or alternative input methods.

Screen magnifiers: These are software programs that magnify part or all of a computer screen, making it easier for people with visual impairments to see and interact with digital content.

These are just a few examples of assistive technologies. There are many more devices, software, and equipment available that can help people with disabilities access and interact with digital content.


4. Consider and Consult

Nothing about us , without us” is a motto that has been used by disability activists to advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities.


Consider the needs of different disabilities: Consider the needs of people with different disabilities, such as those who are blind, deaf, or have cognitive impairments, and design information that meets their specific needs.

Consult with people with disabilities: Consult with people with disabilities to understand their needs and preferences and incorporate their feedback into the design of information. 


Accessibility in development communication is essential to ensure that information is available to everyone. By making development communication accessible, we can promote inclusivity and diversity, break down barriers, and promote social cohesion. It requires a conscious effort to design information with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. By taking these steps, we can create information that is easier to understand and use for everyone.

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*Aanchal Madaan is Intern-Development Communication on Ginny’s Planet.