How to boost accessibility in Slack

Discover best practices and simple tricks that make working in Slack more inclusive and accessible

Data has shown that collaboration platforms as the new norm are on the rise. As we shift to this new way of working – which lacks the valuable visual cues that we get from in-person interaction – inclusive and accessible communication is critical to meaningful collaboration.

Here are four things that we can do today in Slack that make collaboration inclusive and accessible for everyone.

1. Provide a short description of images shared in Slack

Uploading an image saved with ‘screenshot’ as its name is not very descriptive. Here’s a quick way to add some context for users of assistive technology.

Step 1: Upload the file and click on the image to expand it – a new window will open.

Uploading an image of a present into a Slack message

Step 2: In the top-left corner of the window, select ‘Edit file details’.

Icon of a present uploaded to Slack

Step 3: Add your description and edit the file name, if you like, and then select ‘Save changes’.

Editing the file name details of an image uploaded to Slack

If you need to add alt text after you’ve already posted an image, learn how to update it here.

2. Add a caption to GIFs to provide context

We all love a good GIF, and just like emoji, they can serve as language enhancers. Adding a caption will allow users of assistive technology to get in on the fun!

  • Step 1: Type /giphy #caption ‘write description here’ [giphy search term] in the message compose field.
  • Step 2: You may need to select ‘Shuffle’ until you find the GIF that you’re looking for. When you’re ready, select ‘Send’.

Note: Your new caption is also overlaid on the GIF itself.

3. Shorten URLs with linked text and share what happens when they are clicked

Replacing a long URL with linked text is a great way to save space in a post, but sharing what happens when the link is clicked is a practice that we recommend. Avoid using ‘Click here’ as the prompt. Use something more descriptive, such as ‘Click here to complete the online form’, and then share what happens next.

  • Tip 1: Use linked text.
  • Tip 2: Explain in the linked text what will happen, e.g. ‘Click here to complete the Slack swag redemption form (opens in new window)’.
  • Tip 3: Add the link to the text that leads to it. In the example, it would be ‘Slack swag redemption form’.

4. Alternatives to using emoji as a formatting tool

Before the ordered list option was launched, you may have been using emoji to help break up content in a post, or using them to create headlines or dividers in Slack. Assistive technology will read emoji names one by one. Consider using Block Kit instead to help you craft attention-grabbing posts.

The above message was formatted with emoji, but will be read like this:

5. Use channel naming conventions to provide clarity and context

All companies should have a channel naming convention in place.

Use dashes to separate words and provide context and clarity, which is especially important when channel names are being read aloud via a screen reader.

#sales-announcements-global vs #salesannouncementsglobal

6. Summary of inclusive communication in Slack

  • Provide context: Add alternative text if images, GIFs and videos are shared
  • Be clear: Does clicking on a link result in a file downloading or a new window appearing? Make sure that you let the reader know.
  • Pause before sending: If you closed your eyes and your post was read aloud to you, would it make sense to you?

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