Universal Design: Accessibility On Social Media Benefits All
In today’s world, there are so many different social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are just a few platforms regularly used by businesses, and by people for personal use. As our digital world continues to evolve, and new ways of delivering information are created – it is important that each platform is accessible to all who wish to use it!
Whether you run a business account or go on social media for personal use, there are actions YOU can take to make a more accessible social media experience for your friends and followers.
[Photo: Cartoon of people walking with a cellphone in the middle showing commonly used apps.]
- Include Closed Captioning
Closed captions are not only helpful, but necessary for many people who are deaf or experience hearing loss. Captions can also be helpful for viewers whose native language is different from that used in the video, or those who are in an environment where the volume needs to be low/turned off.
Facebook and YouTube have been auto-generating captions for years, and recently Instagram launched auto-generated captions on Instagram TV (IGTV) and Instagram Live spaces of the platform. While these captions are typically accurate, you can manually choose your own captions by using websites such as rev.com or download the app Clipomatic, which captions the words as you speak and you can post to any platform of your choice.
One action you can take is to ensure the video you are creating or sharing allows for closed captions before posting.
- Use Descriptive Text Alongside Photos
Often, people will share photos that contain text inside of it. While these posts can be aesthetically pleasing, many screen-reader devices are unable to correctly read the text inside a photo, meaning that people who are visually impaired may be missing out on important information. By posting a caption with the exact wording of what is inside the post, you are creating a more accessible space.
Similarly, alternative text can be useful in describing what is in a photo. Many people who use alternative text will put it in brackets following a caption.
On Facebook, start a post and click on the “Edit” button in the top left corner of your photo. Then click on “Alternative Text” and write in your description. Instagram’s “Alt Text” feature can be found under “Advanced Settings” that appears when you are preparing to share a post, LinkedIn’s “Alt Text” button appears in the top or bottom corner of any image you upload, and Twitter’s “Add Description” option shows up directly below your photo when creating a tweet.
- Use CamelCase Hashtags
A CamelCase hashtag is when the first letter of each word inside a hashtag is capitalized. For example, if you were to include the name of our organization in a hashtag, you would want it to read #CommunityCrossroads rather than #communitycrossroads. This is important because many screen readers will read a lowercase hashtag as a series of letters rather than a series of words. CamelCase hashtags are likely to make social media easier for those who use screen readers and other forms of accessible technology. It is also important to place hashtags at the end of a post so the post can be best interpreted.
[Photo: A group of people sitting on a large hashtag surrounded by smaller hashtags and clouds.]
- Use Plain Language
Using plain language means getting a point across in a concise and clear manner. This includes using active voices instead of passive, short sentences and paragraphs, common words, “you” and other pronouns, design features that are easy to follow, such as bullet-points and tables, and spelling out an acronym the first time you use it so readers don’t have to look it up. You should avoid using too much slang, complicated words and terms that require research to understand, and long paragraphs.
- Maintain Color Contrast and Consider Your Font
Considering color contrast is important when creating content both online and offline. Bright colors on a bright background are difficult to view, and so is text that is on a background that is a very similar color. Being aware of what colors you are using in a post will make your posts much easier to interpret. View a breakdown of good and poor color pairings based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): https://www.accessible-social.com/images-and-visuals/using-color.
Similarly, be consistent with the fonts you use and avoid fonts that are complicated. Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman are considered by many as the most accessible font styles.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population experiences some type of disability. Facebook reported in 2018 that studies including people from 50 different countries found that more than 30% of people report difficulty with at least one of the following: seeing, hearing, speaking, organizing thoughts, walking, or grasping with their hands. Practicing accessibility on social media could lead to you gaining a friend, meeting your business’ next customer, or it could allow someone who follows you to consume all of the content you share without being left out.
Last summer, the European Disability Forum created a toolkit about making your social media pages more accessible that you can read here: https://www.nhcdd.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt411/files/inline-documents/toolkit-accessible-social-media.pdf. We hope these suggestions lead you to making your social media more accessible to all.
Check our other stories about universal design (Universal Design: An Environment That Benefits All) and (Universal Design: A Classroom That Benefits All).