Are you present on one of the social media networks available today? Most likely your answer to this question is “yes, I am.” Social media sites are accessed by billions of people worldwide. You may have started, or you will soon start making posts about what you are up to this holiday. Will your posts be accessible to everyone? There are many ways you can make your social media content more accessible. Find out how in our last article of 2022.
This article is divided into two sections, elements and language.
Accessibility: As used in this article, it means ensuring that your social media content can be accessed by everyone despite their varying characteristics such as vision and hearing impairment.
Social media: Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. (Oxford Languages)
Interactive posts are those that contain elements such as images, videos, and more. Can blind people benefit from these? Let’s explore some ways we can use them and include blind people in our posts.
Add Alternative Text to Images
How often do you make posts that contain images, gifs, memes, and screen grabs? When you post them, does it ever come to your mind how blind people will access them? Try using alt text! It can be used to describe an image in a few words to a blind social media user. For the best experience, Indiana University suggest using fewer than 125 characters when making alt text for your content. If the description is long, it's better to include it in a caption on your post. Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and more allow the addition of alt text to images. Find out how to add them in their individual help articles linked above.
While we’re talking about alt text for image description, let’s include gifs, memes, screen grabs, and other visual content. The good news is today, social media platforms can auto-generate descriptions for these elements. But at times, they may not describe them in a way you wanted your message to be passed to your audience. To fix this and give your reader the best interaction with your post, describe the image's significance to the rest of the content.
During the holiday season, there are so many events that one can attend. Not only that, but stores may also offer discount deals to their clients, and these are usually presented to the audience in the form of a flier, poster, and other graphical content. How do we make this content accessible for all?
Use colors that are not difficult to see.
Provide enough spacing between your text and graphics to make it easier for a visually impaired person to see.
Use readable fonts and size.
Add alt text for your ad or invite.
If you are uploading video content, be sure to add captions. They aid people who can't hear or who are watching without sound. Some sites such as LinkedIn will recommend that you include a subtitles file for captions when you upload a video to their platform. You do well to provide it or allow auto-captioning, and then editing a few mistakes made by artificial intelligence.
While we are discussing video content, let’s quickly talk about adding text descriptions of video content. Think of video descriptions as alt text for video content. Just as captions aid people who can't hear, text descriptions aid people who can't see your video. These tips for writing video descriptions for animal videos, including examples, will help you write useful video descriptions.
Capitalize Your Hashtags
Hashtags play an important role in increasing visibility of our content online, but how they are made is as well important when it comes to accessibility. As a screen reader user, I can attest that capitalization helps the screen reader correctly identify the individual words in the hashtag. For example, the hashtag #VisionInWord is more readable than #visioninword.
Avoid Excessive Use of Emojis
Extreme use of emojis is distracting and annoying to people using screen readers. Every time you use one, the screen reader announces a description of it. The meaning of your content can easily get lost if it is packed with a lot of emojis. See the example below. How the screen reader will announce it is in the caption.
"Morning waving hand I can't wait to see you smiling face with heart shaped eyes hugging face I have a gift for you present wrapped"
You will notice that one or more of the emojis used in the message appears more than one time. This can also cause a problem as some screen readers will say it the multiple times it appears. For example; hugging face, hugging face, hugging face, hugging face. Some will just say, “4 hugging face.”
Avoid The Use of Special Fonts
When you use special fonts, such as script or inverted characters, the screen reader does not read the word as a whole. For every character, it announces the name of the font and then the character. This can be confusing for people using screen readers. See the example of the word Iconic written with special fonts.
When reading this word, my screen reader reads it as, “italic capital I italic small c italic small o italic small n italic small i italic small c.” This makes it hard for a screen reader user to understand the post.
Add Content Warning
Perhaps your video does not have a consistent volume, or maybe you have used bright transitions. It is important to warn listeners/viewers that some parts of the video may be too loud or too low. It helps those using assistive technology to be ready with their devices that will enhance their interaction with your content despite these changes.
We have looked at how you can make your content accessible using elements such as images, videos, and emojis. How you deliver your post matters, too. Your language and tone are equally important as elements. Let’s explore ways we can effectively used our language to enhance accessibility.
Use inclusive language
Avoid language that suggests gender, age, sexual orientation, race, living standard, ability or disability and other identifying characteristics that can tend to cause a reader to discriminate.
Follow Grammar Rules
This is especially important for screen reader users. Consider the example we considered above with the text message and emojis. Screen reader will add no punctuation marks when reading it. This can make the message difficult to ingest.
Add Disability Representation
As we mentioned earlier about creating an event invitation post, you need to make sure that it does not exclude anyone by its wording. Representation matters. In your social media posts, be sure to include positive depictions of people who have disabilities.
Add Content Warnings
This is not only useful to help blind people but applies to everyone. If you are discussing sensitive topics, add a content warning label to your post. Stating Content warning at the beginning of your post can be helpful for those wishing to avoid certain topics.
Will you join the movement by making your social media content accessible?
These are some of the many ways we can make our posts accessible. Let’s ensure that social media is enjoyable and useful for all.
It starts with you and I. Together, we can make it!