The significance of social media accessibility has been receiving growing recognition in recent years. With the contribution of recent product updates from Twitter and TikTok, it has evolved from a specialized subject into a topic that every social media marketer should familiarize themselves with.
Within this article, we will elucidate the importance of accessibility in social media, the obstacles encountered by users with disabilities on these platforms, and provide some recommended methods for creating inclusive social media content that caters to all users.
What does inclusive design in social media accessibility entail?
Inclusive design within the realm of social media pertains to the process of crafting platforms, features, and content that enable full participation and engagement for all users, irrespective of their backgrounds or abilities.
Inclusive design takes into account the varied needs and experiences of different users during the content creation process. This encompasses designing with considerations for individuals with disabilities, diverse linguistic or cultural backgrounds, and other distinct requirements. Following inclusive design principles makes your community a more welcoming and inclusive space.
The significance of accessibility in social media
Despite the numerous advantages it offers, social media can pose challenges for users with disabilities or unique requirements. Inaccessible social media content can hinder their ability to actively participate in the social sphere, excluding them from conversations and impeding their access to vital information.
Approximately one billion people, equivalent to 15% of the global population, experience some form of disability. This number increases significantly when considering temporary and situational disabilities.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 33% of the world’s population has hearing or visual impairments. Ensuring accessibility is of utmost importance as individuals primarily utilize social media content through audio and visual means.
Legal requirements for social media accessibility
In many cases, accessibility is a legal requirement. Various countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, have enacted laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These laws stipulate that websites and digital content must be accessible to users with disabilities.
Plus, accessible content can reach more people and be more engaging. That’s what social media marketers care about most, right?
A Verizon study found that 83% of US users watch content with sound off. Chatterblast found that 77% of conversions happened on videos with sound off. So, creating accessible content truly benefits us all.
Social Media Accessibility Tips
Ensure the inclusion of alt text
Incorporating descriptive captions and alternative text (referred to as alt text) enables individuals to form a mental image of the content when they are unable to see the accompanying visuals. Adding alt text holds significant importance as accessibility tools utilize it to describe images for users. Neglecting to provide alt text will result in a screen reader announcing it as “image,” leading to an unsatisfactory user experience.
Various social media platforms utilize object recognition technology to automatically generate alt text for images. However, these generated captions tend to be vague or limited in their descriptions, making it preferable to include a customized description.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer specific fields for adding alt text to images and GIFs (Hootsuite also supports alt text). If adding or editing alt text is not feasible, it is advisable to incorporate descriptive words within the post’s main text.
Here are some tips for crafting effective alt text for social media accessibility
- Describe the actual content of the image. Example of poor alt text: “Image of bar chart.” Example of good alt text: “A bar chart illustrating a consistent year-over-year increase in the S&P 500 index.”
- Avoid using phrases like “image of” or “photo of.”
- The Royal National Institute of Blind People states that most screen readers prefer omitting these phrases.
- Incorporate humor if appropriate. Alt text doesn’t need to be overly formal and can explain any jokes or subtle elements conveyed in the visual.
- Transcribe text present in the image. If the image contains text that is crucial to its meaning, include it in the alt text description.
- Don’t overlook GIFs. On Twitter, you can include alt text for GIFs. If the platform does not support alt text for GIFs, include a descriptive explanation within the accompanying text.
- Keep the descriptions concise. Remember that narrating alt text may take longer than reading it, so strive for brevity when composing the descriptions.
Captions for videos
The inclusion of captions or subtitles in videos plays a crucial role in accommodating users with hearing difficulties. Additionally, individuals watching videos in non-native languages or in environments without audio find that they enhance the viewing experience.
There are two main types of captions: closed captions and open captions. Users can turn closed captions on or off. You can add closed captions to social media platforms in the form of a .srt file.
Here’s a guide on adding captions for each platform
Facebook: On Facebook, you have the option to automatically generate closed captions, manually write captions, or upload a .srt file. For advertisements, you can include captions in multiple languages.
Instagram: In Instagram, you can add auto-generated closed captions to Reels and Stories. But the platform does not currently support uploading .srt files.
TikTok: TikTok provides the option to include auto-generated closed captions for videos, or you can manually add open captions using TikTok’s editing tools.
YouTube: YouTube offers automatic closed caption generation, manual captioning, and the ability to upload .srt files.
Twitter: Twitter enables auto captions by default for all videos posted on the platform. Additionally, you have the option to upload a .srt file.
Crafting inclusive text for social media accessibility
Emphasizing clarity in your writing enhances the accessibility and comprehensibility of the text, benefiting all individuals regardless of their challenges. When composing post copy, consider the reading experience of diverse users. How will it impact those utilizing accessibility tools like screen readers? What about users who are non-native English speakers or individuals with learning disabilities?
Here are some inclusive design recommendations to enhance social media accessibility
- Utilize plain language: Write copy that users can understand effortlessly upon the first reading or hearing.
- Avoid fancy fonts: You must avoid fancy fonts since they are illegible for screen readers.
- Exercise caution with abbreviations: Abbreviations can confuse certain readers. To prevent tools from reading abbreviations as a single word, include periods or spaces in between (e.g., t.h.i.s.).
- Avoid alternating uppercase and lowercase letters or all caps: Such formatting appears as gibberish to screen readers. Minimize the use of all caps whenever possible, as screen readers cannot discern the contextual significance.
- Refrain from replacing letters with asterisks: You must avoid replacing letters with asterisk since this disrupts the flow for screen readers.
- Avoid inline placement of hashtags: Insert hashtags at the end of a post caption rather than within sentences to minimize interruptions for screen readers.
- Place blocks of hashtags in a separate comment: While excessive hashtag usage is not ideal for accessibility, if you must use them, add them as a separate comment instead of including them at the end of your main caption.
- Use inclusive language: Avoid ableist language, incorporate gender-neutral pronouns and terms, highlight diverse voices and emojis, and critically examine your text for assumptions and limited perspectives.
This is a great example from Canyon bikes that uses a descriptive caption, Pascal Case hashtags, limited emojis, and separates hashtags from the post copy.
Developing inclusive visuals for social media accessibility
Similar to text, social media visuals can present accessibility challenges that affect users with visual impairments who rely on tools like screen readers to navigate and comprehend visual content.
Fortunately, there are numerous straightforward methods to ensure visuals are accessible and inclusive for all users. Follow these guidelines to create accessible visuals:
- Verify color contrast: When placing text on a background, adhere to the WCAG recommendation of a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. Utilize free tools such as a color contrast analyzer to check the contrast of your colors. Avoid placing text directly on images, as it can be challenging to read.
- Do not rely solely on color for conveying meaning: Color alone may be difficult to discern for individuals with vision impairments, including colorblindness. Therefore, it is important not to solely rely on color to communicate information. Instead, supplement color with symbols, patterns, or labels.
- Avoid flashing or excessively animated images: Animated images with flashing or excessive movement can trigger seizures, migraines, or other issues for individuals with vestibular conditions. If possible, refrain from posting GIFs or other animated images with excessive movement.
- Limit the amount of text in images: If you need to share a substantial block of text, include it in the post caption instead. This allows users to adjust the size, color, and language of the text to suit their needs. Avoid adding excessive text directly onto images.
Memes and emojis
Emojis and memes have become an integral part of the internet and social media culture. However, it’s important to recognize that they may not be fully accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Screen readers misunderstand context when a brand uses an emoji to convey a meaning that differs from its literal interpretation.
Memes are more challenging if you create them as text overlays on images. Even if the meme includes alt text, it may be hard to describe the punchline through text alone.
Here are some recommendations to enhance the social media accessibility of memes and emojis
- Avoid using emojis as bullet points: Screen readers read the alt text of each emoji, which can elongate the list and potentially create confusion. Avoid using emojis as bullet points.
- Provide descriptive content and context: When adding alt text to memes, strive to provide detailed descriptions of the content and context, and then explain any jokes or humor present in the meme.
- Steer clear of ASCII art/memes: ASCII art or memes consisting of intricate text-based designs pose significant accessibility challenges. They can be confusing when narrated by text-to-speech tools. If you wish to engage in this trend, consider sharing the ASCII art as an image instead and provide a descriptive alt text.
- Place emojis at the end of sentences: To ensure smooth reading by assistive tools, it is advisable to place emojis at the end of a sentence or caption instead of in the middle.
- Limit the number of emojis per social media post: Excessive use of emojis can be disruptive and confusing for users relying on screen readers. As a general guideline, try not to exceed three emojis in a single post.
- Avoid repeating more than three emojis consecutively: Repeated emojis can prolong the narration by text-to-speech tools. Moreover, these tools may not comprehend the reason behind the repetition, so it is advisable to avoid excessive repetition whenever possible.
Keep abreast of the social media accessibility capabilities of each platform
Positive development: Social media platforms have increasingly prioritized accessibility in recent years. Twitter and TikTok have been at the forefront of introducing accessibility enhancements and new features, such as alt text and auto-generated captions.
It is crucial to stay informed about the accessibility features and available resources offered by each platform.
While it’s not necessary for all social media marketers to be accessibility experts, it is essential to make an effort to stay informed (such as reading articles like this one). If you happen to make an accessibility mistake, it is important to accept feedback graciously and use it as a learning opportunity for future improvement.
Prioritizing social media accessibility is crucial for creating inclusive and engaging experiences for all users. By following these tips and staying informed about platform features, we can ensure that social media content reaches a wider audience and promotes equal participation. Let’s strive to make social media accessibility a standard practice in our digital endeavors.