As content creators, marketing specialists, and/or small business owners, it's important that we make our digital content accessible. What does accessibility online mean or look like? Making your social media accessible means recognizing the limitations of certain content or platforms and presenting information or media in the clearest ways possible. Making social media accessible is great for everyone, especially any users with a disability.
Per the 2017 US Census, over 40 million Americans—or 12.7% of the population—lived with a disability. Disabilities “appear” differently or impact each person differently. Disabilities can include temporary or permanent impairments; disabilities can be affect vision, hearing, cognition, or mobility. There are lots of assistive technology that people with disabilities often use to access digital content. Examples include screen readers or magnifiers, closed captioning, voice command, spelling and grammar tools, or mind or site maps.
It's important to keep in mind that a large portion of your audience is using assistive tech. How can you make your social media more accessible? Here are 4 of my greatest tips:
1. Use Emojis Sparingly
You heard that right! It's important to limit your use of emojis to make your content more accessible. This tip might be hard to hear for many of us—myself included. Emoji and similar icons are read aloud by screen reading technology, which can be really confusing for people using it. This means some of your followers may hear things like “loudly crying face” or “pile of poo.” Keep this in mind next time you plan to use an emoji in a caption. I know I will!
How else can we make social media more accessible? At the end of the day, I recommend simply doing your best to learn. Do your own research, listen to others who give you tips, and implement what you learn as you grow.
2. Incorporate Alt Text
Adding alt text to your social media posts helps make your content more inclusive for anyone who is visually impaired. According to Later Media, “alt text is essentially an invisible description that can be narrated through a screen reader device—so users can understand what’s happening in your content without being able to see it.” Social media platforms that are heavily visual, like Instagram or TikTok, can be incredibly difficult for these users. Adding alt text to describe what's in your photos will help these users understand what's happening. I know Instagram and LinkedIn have this feature, but every platform is different.
3. Capitalize Hashtags
When using hashtags, you should always use CamelCase and capitalize the first letter of every word. For example, you should write #JustDoIt instead of #justdoit. Capitalizing each word in the hashtag means the words are read out correctly by screen readers. This makes your content more accessible for your visually impaired followers. It also helps other users who may not be able to identify the patterns and relationships between words easily, like someone with dyslexia. Capitalizing hashtags helps everyone!
4. Use Captions
Do you use captions in your videos? Thanks to Later Media we know that 85% of video on Facebook is watched without sound. Curating amazing content only goes so far if your audience can’t access or understand the message. Not only are captions great for people who watch your videos without sound, but they’re also essential for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Including captions in your videos also makes your content more accessible for viewers with auditory or sensory processing disorders. Making your content accessible without audio is a no-brainer. Captions help everyone!!
Making your social media and digital content accessible means recognizing why it's needed and actively working to present information in the clearest ways possible. This will look different with every medium and on every platform. Ultimately, it's important for all of us to make social media more inclusive and there are ways we can all do our part.
For more accessibility tips and information, please check out these resources:
Social Media Accessibility User Guide by the University of Rochester
5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Account More Accessible Right Now by Jillian Warren from Later Media
9 Best Practices to Make Social Media Accessible by Mia Ives-Rublee And Alyssa Klein from shondaland.com