I’m a big fan of social media. Not only is it my literal job, but it’s one of my most time-consuming pastimes. It’s super easy to navigate, you never run out of new or interesting content, and it’s all housed on my phone in my pocket. I never really have to think about it and, in fact, most times, I can scroll mindlessly through a news feed for hours. But, I see social media through my eyes.. Too often, we don’t think about the accessibility of websites or social media, we just use them. But what about people with disabilities? Social media accessibility is crucial to ensure every user has the same experience, regardless of any physical, mental or learning disability.
Why Social Media Accessibility is No Longer Optional
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people have some form of vision impairment, with roughly 253 million experiencing severe vision impairment or total blindness. Additionally, there are roughly 466 million people in the world who are deaf or hearing impaired. If effort isn’t made to be more accessible online, the experiences of these individuals are being hindered.
Here are several ways to help ensure a helpful and enjoyable experience for all who follow your social media channels.
Include Image Descriptions
Image descriptions are needed so screen readers can describe an image for an individual who is blind. It’s a quick and easy way to help out. All you need to do is write out what you see in an image. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have made it easy to do this, and LinkedIn posts, when made from a desktop, can have alt text and descriptions added.
These descriptions should fully describe what you see in the image, and can include a keyword you’re working towards for SEO. Make sure the keyword is organic, though. You don’t want it to seem like you’re shoving a square peg in a round hole.
Open captioning of videos has become more common in social media because it allows all users to play videos on silent mode without bothering those around them. However, including open or closed captioning is essential for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as it gives them access to the content in the video. You can even caption your Instagram Stories and TikTok videos.
If you have a video with no audio or without captions, include a transcript and description of the content to ensure it can be understood by anyone and everyone. Tools such as Clipomatic or Zubtitles can help you out.
Emojis & Content
“Red heart. Red heart. Red heart. Red heart.” A screen reader is set up to automatically read emojis out loud. One red heart isn’t terrible, but having to hear “red heart” repeated 10 times in a row takes a long time and might get tiresome. This also goes for other text in your post. Try to avoid repetition unless necessary.
It’s important to pay attention to the text you include in your post, as well. Using overly jargon-y phrases or long paragraphs can make it more difficult for someone to read or comprehend. This goes for international readers as well. Try to use simplified language when possible and write in a clear, concise voice. Long paragraphs make it harder to listen on a mobile device, and mobile visibility and accessibility is extremely important for SEO purposes.
This is something I’ve seen really explode on TikTok recently. Using a trigger warning, such as “TRIGGER WARNING” in all caps or its abbreviation “TW,” tells an individual that there will be sensitive topics addressed in the content of your post. You never know the history of others who are reading your posts, so you might consider warnings for things like assault, violence, blood or any number of other sensitive topics.
Up to 70 percent of adults in the United States alone have experienced some sort of trauma, and an estimated 7 or 8 percent are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. With so much violence or sensitive subjects shared on social media, trigger warnings allow individuals to decide whether they want to interact with posts that could cause emotional or physical distress.
Besides the # symbol, which is read as “number,” text-to-speech programs read hashtags just like they do any other word, using spaces and capital letters to differentiate between separate terms. If you were to make a post using the hashtag #crazyplantlady, the accessibility program would blend those three words into one big mess. By simply using what’s called Pascal case or upper camel case, #CrazyPlantLady becomes three words instead of one. It’s easier for everyone, even those without vision impairments, to read as well.
It might not be along the same lines as the rest of the tips I included, but it’s more important than any of them. Disability representation isn’t just important on TV or in movies—it’s also what we’re seeing every day on social media. If you’re creating content for your business, consider using a photo, video clip or artwork that includes or represents disabled individuals.
No one is going to be perfect when it comes to social media accessibility. It takes a lot of time, testing and improving. Technology still has a long way to go and human error is bound to happen, but making an effort ensures that everyone can enjoy it. The more people create inclusive content, the more likely it will be for accessibility practices to become a norm for both industry professionals and casual social media users alike.
Our marketing team at Rooted Web is here to help make sure your content is seen and understood by all people. Let’s chat!
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