Improving the accessibility of your social media content is crucial for ensuring inclusivity and equal access to information for people with disability.
Image: A woman who is vision impaired wears a light green shirt and sits in a library, using a mobile phone.
Social media platforms have become an essential part of our lives, connecting us to friends, family, and the wider community.
As we rely more and more on social media to communicate and stay up to date with the latest news, trends, and events, it's important to remember that not everyone accesses social media in the same way. For people with disability, navigating social media can be challenging due to the barriers created by inaccessible content.
It is crucial that we all take responsibility for making our content accessible because when accessibility isn’t considered on social media, people with disability are prevented from being able to access information and participate in society on an equal basis with others.
Using the practices and features outlined here, you can make your social media channel a more accessible place for people with disabilities.
Alternative text, or alt text, is a visually hidden description of what appears in an image.
Alt text provides a text description of an image for people who use screen readers or other assistive technology. This allows people who are blind or have low vision to understand the content of the image and its relevance to the surrounding content.
When writing your alt text, you should avoid starting with ‘image of’, as screen readers will already state that the content item is an image. Instead, focus on describing the most important and informational elements of the image and include any text.
You should try to keep your descriptions short, specific, and in plain English. It is also important to make sure you don’t include any #Tags or links in your alt text unless describing text in the image (e.g. #Yes23).
Below is an example of an image with an alt text description.
Image: Screenshot of an image on Instagram with alt text. The image shows a man performing a traditional Smoking Ceremony. Text: A man performs a traditional Smoking Ceremony at the Deception Bay RAP launch event.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter all have the ability for users to add alt-text to images. We also recommend including image descriptions in the copy of your post as well as using the alt-text feature.
You can learn how to apply alt-text on each platform by following the links below:
While some social media platforms auto-generate alt-text, we recommend that you provide your own, as the auto-generated text is often incorrect or lacks detail. Here is an example of a post with auto-generated alt-text, where you can see the description isn't relevant and provides incorrect information.
Image: Screenshot of an image on Instagram with auto-generated alt text. The image shows a man performing a traditional Smoking Ceremony. Text: Photo by Life Without Barriers on May 09, 2023. May be an image of 3 people, headdress and sugarcane.
Closed captions are a text-based alternative to spoken dialogue in a video that is displayed on the screen as the video plays. Unlike open captions, closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.
Closed captions are important because they provide access to video content with audio for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They also benefit those with auditory processing disorder, people in a noisy environment, or those who are not fluent in the language spoken in the audio.
You can learn how to apply closed captions on each platform by following the links below:
While some social media platforms auto-generate closed captions, we recommend editing these or providing your own to ensure they are accurate.
Image: A screenshot of a YouTube video with closed captions. The visuals show a hand holding a document called 'Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan'. Text shown as part of the closed captions: Our commitment is about us partnering, building relationships.
Similar to alt text, video descriptions are written descriptions of visual elements in videos which allow people who are blind or have low vision to understand the content.
Usually, these descriptions are provided through transcripts however, social media channels unfortunately do not currently have this option. What you can do instead is include a written description at the bottom of your caption.
When writing your video description, focus on describing the important visual elements of the video, similar to how you would create alt text for an image. When relevant, it is a good idea to include ‘this video has captions and sound’ and to describe the cover photo or thumbnail used.
Due to character limits on Twitter, we recommend adding ‘video description in comments’ to your post and including the video description in the next tweet.
Below is an example of a social post with a video description.
Image: Example of a Life Without Barriers LinkedIn post that includes a video description. The description of the video is surrounded by a green box. Text reads: When people feel safe talking about their disability at work, they are more engaged, feel that they belong and are more confident and satisfied in their roles. Recently, our colleagues shared their perspectives on why people with disability might feel unsafe sharing information about their disability with an employer or potential employer. Video: The video is a compilation of five different staff members sitting in front of a white wall, answering, "Why might some people choose not to share information about their disability?" which appears as text on the screen. The video has captions and sound. The cover photo is an image of a man and a woman talking in an office. The text reads: Let's talk about disability employment! Sharing Information about your disability in the workplace.
Another way you can make your videos more accessible is to use audio descriptions. Audio descriptions are a voice-over, usually provided as an additional audio track, that describes the key visual elements, including settings, actions, and expressions of characters, allowing individuals who cannot see the video to follow along with the story.
Here is an example of a video with an audio description from Vision Australia.
One adjustment you can make to your written captions (the body of text in your social posts) is using plain English. This is writing that is clear, concise, and easy to understand. To apply this to your captions, focus on using simple language, avoid jargon and technical terms, and break down complex information into shorter sentences or dot points.
Applying this to your captions can improve the overall experience for all users, as it ensures that information is conveyed in a way that is understandable to the widest possible audience.
Image: A young woman with long brown hair, wearing a green t-shirt, sits in a wheelchair and smiles at the camera whilst holding her mobile phone.
Another element that you may not have considered is hashtags. When hashtags are all in lower-case letters or all caps, they are difficult to read and can be easily misinterpreted.
To make your use of hashtags more accessible, you should use Camel Case. This is where the first letter of each word is capitalised, e.g., #CamelCase instead of #camelcase or #CAMELCASE.
Using Camel Case makes tags easier to read and understand, differentiates words, and assists screen readers in distinguishing words when reading the hashtag for those with visual disabilities.
Image: Two hands type on a laptop keyboard. Hashtags and cubes with hashtags on them hover above the laptop.
While emojis can be fun to include in your captions and can help support written content by communicating tone and emotion, it is important to use them the right way.
Screen readers read each individual emoji aloud. So, when one emoji, such as the smiling face emoji, is repeated multiple times in a row, the user will hear ‘Smiling Face’ repeated multiple times, which can take a very long time.
Instead, put emojis at the end of a sentence (or ideally at the end of a post). It is also a good idea to avoid putting emojis after each word to make your sentences easier to understand for users with screen readers.
When using emojis, it is also good practice to use them to support your written content, not to replace it. When emojis are used to replace words or as the only way to communicate emotion or tone, they do not convey the full meaning and can be misinterpreted.
To ensure your emoji use is accessible, use them sparingly, in context, and in combination with Plain English captions that clearly convey the meaning of the emoji.
Image: A hand holds a mobile phone over a wooden table. A smiling face emoji, laughing emoji and angry face emoji hover above the phone.
Social media accessibility is crucial to creating a more inclusive online space for people with disability. By incorporating features such as alt text, closed captions, and accessible copy, we can ensure that everyone can participate on social media platforms.
By taking these steps, you can make social media a more welcoming and inclusive space for people with disability.
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