Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: Inclusive Communications in Heritage

19th January, 2022 by EMBED

 Birds on a Balustrade, Melchior d’Hondecoeter, c. 1680 – c. 1690 (c) Jonkheer J.S.H. van de Poll Bequest, Amsterdam


This article on inclusive communication in heritage is paired with – EDI Toolkit, The Workplace Passport, and our three part EDI Podcast Series.

What Does ‘Inclusive Communication’ Mean?

Heritage organisations employ, serve and support diverse groups of people. The people within those diverse groups have intersectional characteristics e.g., age, race, faith, gender, sexuality or disability. Anyone whose job involves communicating with colleagues, members or visitors should be mindful of the different educational, cultural, socio-economic backgrounds and access needs of your audience. This guide to inclusive communication in heritage will help you achieve that goal.

Ultimately, an effective piece of content whether that be digital or print, should make it easy for different groups of people to:

Find the information they need as quickly as possible

Read the content in an accessible format

Understand key messages through plain, conversational language

Recognise themselves and their communities in stories and images

Identify positive, unbiased, and anti-discriminatory language

As well as considering the tone, look and feel, inclusive communication in heritage should also factor in accessibility for disabled people.


Accessibility means considering any environmental, physical, digital or policy barrier that could prevent people from accessing your communications. For example, captioned video content will help both D/deaf and hearing-impaired people and those who are learning to read or to speak.

Legal requirement

By following a good practice approach on inclusive communications and anticipating barriers which may make it more difficult for the public, including disabled people to access your information or communicate with you, you are more likely to meet your duties under the Equality Act 2010.

This short guide provides links to useful information to help you to communicate more inclusively with diverse audiences.

Web Accessibility

As well as meeting obligations under the Equality Act 2010, web accessibility regulations came into force for public sector bodies on 23 September 2018. This includes some charities.

You can find out more about public sector accessibility requirements here.

Organisations across all sectors should follow a good practice approach to website or mobile app accessibility by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’ known as the ‘POUR’ principle.

Any web developers or web content managers should also familiarise themselves with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and be striving to meet AA standard.

This short, captioned video explains more about the role and standards of WCAG and the POUR principle of Accessibility: www.youtube.com/watch?v=20SHvU2PKsM

The following top tips will help you to embed best practice in web accessibility:

Ensure that the Content Management System that you choose, for example WordPress, supports accessibility

Check whether your site meets basic accessibility requirements with an online toolbar checker such as WebAIM

Commission an accessibility expert such as EMBED to support you during site design, build and development or to carry out a more detailed digital audit of key messages through plain, conversational language

Test the website regularly with a wide range of users, particularly disabled people from your own organisation, audience, or membership

Add a website accessibility statement to your website, explaining current accessibility features, your plan for improving accessibility and contact details for further help

V & A

Writing Inclusive Content

Whether you are writing for digital or print, the following guidelines will provide a strong foundation in embedding inclusive communications.

Write as you would speak using friendly conversational language – learn more about Plain English: plainenglish.co.uk/

Avoid complicated words and explain sector specific abbreviations and acronyms

Keep sentences and paragraphs short

Left aligned text is easier to scan

Use sentence case and avoid using capitals for full words as capitals can read like shouting for some Deaf people or those using assistive technology

Use sans-serif fonts like Helvetica, Calibri or Arial which are easier for people with visual impairments or Dyslexia to read

Body font size should be at a minimum font size of 12 point and ideally 14 point to class as clear print https://www.ukaaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/MS03-UKAAF-Minimum-standards-Clear-and-large-print.pdf

Use a clear heading and sub-heading structure to make it easier to scan for key information nomensa.com/blog/how-structure-headings-web-accessibility

Use bold text instead of underlining for emphasis

Ensure good contrast between the text and the background You can use an online contrast checker to help with this: https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/

(c) Fine Arts in Hungary

Using Inclusive Language

Any person or group can be excluded with, or offended by language. Typically, this term is used for traditionally underrepresented or underprivileged groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities or members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Using inclusive language shows that your organisation is aware of, and values, different perspectives, identities, and ideas. It also sets boundaries for respectful communications and demonstrates your stance on an anti-discriminatory organisation.

Use the following guides as a starting point for creating your own in-house inclusive communication guide:

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 3.0

Using Inclusive Images

As well as using inclusive language and accessible formatting, inclusive organisations should proactively look for opportunities to use images that reflect the diversity of your staff, members, visitors, and other stakeholders.

When people look at your communications the imagery should make them feel represented and welcomed and this includes disabled people.

Labelling and ALT Text

It is also important to ensure that everyone has access to the images especially people who are Blind or visually impaired and who may be using assistive technology and need the content of the image described to them.

An ALT text tags behind an image on a webpage or a social media feed describes what the image is. It allows web images to be ‘searchable’ and is said to increase search engine optimisation (SEO).

In most cases the person uploading the image is responsible for adding an ALT text to describe the purpose and any key information in the image.

The RNIB provides helpful guidance on how to correctly add ALT text.

Further Guidance for inclusive communication in heritage

Social Media

Anyone involved in social media would benefit from reading the Government Communications Services Guide to creating accessible social media. The guide covers key information including:

Use of camel case to write hashtags so that the first letter of each word is capitalised e.g., #AccessibleSocialMedia

Limit emoji use to 2-3 and when they are used describe key information

Add ALT text to all images and consider additional longer descriptions on Instagram and Facebook


Anyone involved in writing newsletters would benefit from reading the Mailchimp guide to writing for accessibility. The principles of writing and creating a digital newsletter or mailer are the same as writing for the web in terms of accessible format and use of inclusive language and images.

The Mailchimp Guide covers topics such as:

Clear use of headers to help navigate the page

Add ALT text to all images including charts

Use descriptive lines instead of ‘click here’ or ‘find out more’

This article was created for Rebuilding Heritage by EMBED.

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