How to Be More Accessible on Social Media

Image of Siteimprove's accessibility icon with the words "like", "share", "follow", "tweet"

Digital accessibility is important in all facets of your organization. While many organizations are on the right track to making their websites and company-owned digital presence accessible, the potential issue is with many social media platforms that are not up to accessibility standards.

This is a tricky accessibility issue. There is only so much you can do in terms of how accessible you can be because you are not the owner of these platforms, which means your organization is confined to how accessible the platform is.

What do you do? How can you become accessible on social media? Let’s take a look at several popular social media platforms that many organizations use and discuss possible ways to improve accessibility on these social channels. With so many recent updates, we too at Siteimprove are learning how we can be more accessible on our social channels!

How to Be More Accessible on Twitter

Twitter just made a new change that allows users to caption images posted through the mobile app. Since research shows that tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images, many organizations are taking advantage of tweeting with images.

While this new update is only for mobile, it is still possible for your organization to take advantage of it. Just as with applications like Instagram and Snapchat, your social media gurus are posting from their phones. Twitter makes it easy to switch between profiles, so your employees could add the organization’s profile to their mobile app and post images for your company from there.

Screen captures of a mobile device explaining how to add a description to an image on Twitter.

All you have to do is go to the Settings menu on your account, tap on Display and Sound under General, then tap on Accessibility and turn on Compose image descriptions. Then when someone from your team uploads a photo, it is possible to add a description in the bottom left corner. While this isn’t ideal for organizations using social media automation or marketing automation tools, it is a way to make images more accessible on Twitter for now.

Another great resource is EasyChrip, which allows you to tweet an image with a caption and long description from your desktop or laptop computer, as well as mobile devices.

Here are additional tips on how to make Twitter more accessible.

How to Be More Accessible on Facebook

Another major social player, Facebook, just released new technology – automatic alternative text. This could revolutionize the way the world’s 285 million visually impaired people are able to interact with Facebook. Basically, automatic alternative text recognizes content of certain images and those with screen readers will hear a description of basic image categories, such as cars, airplanes, trees, water, and people smiling.

In addition to the new alt text technology, there are still some things you can do as an organization to be more accessible. You should think through a good user experience and share useful information on videos or images:

  • Add captions to your videos by clicking on ‘Edit’ after posting it so you can add a .SRT file, which is the caption text file
  • Describe your posts to provide an ‘alt text’ to images your organization is sharing or add a comment to a post with a description of the image/video
  • Follow the Facebook Accessibility page on Facebook to be the first to know about new updates

Here are additional tips on how to make Facebook more accessible.

How to Be More Accessible on Instagram

Instagram overall provides a good experience for users with disabilities. Since it is an image-sharing social media platform, when people provide detailed descriptions of what there are posting, then the image has in a sense has ‘alt text’.

Both Android and Apple mobile phones have general settings where people with disabilities can update accessibility preferences. The zoom-in feature can help those who have a hard time seeing the photos in the size of the application.

So what’s the best approach as an organization? Ensure you add descriptive text to the images you’re posting. Instagram gives you a good platform to be as accessible as you can, because you have no character limit. So be descriptive, but also keep the message easy to understand and concise.

To learn what it’s like for someone who is blind, you can watch a video of Tommy Edison and how he personally uses Instagram.

How to Be More Accessible on Snapchat

DigitalGov recently made a step-by-step guide on how to be as accessible as possible with Snapchat stories. They recommend storyboarding your Snapchat story, just like you would with videos you post on Vimeo and YouTube so that you take accessibility into account up front.

That way, you can download each file of your Snapchat story and record audio for each snap. Uploading the snap screenshot images with audio on one of your video channels, YouTube or Vimeo, can provide a more accessible version of your Snapchat stories.

How to Be More Accessible on YouTube and Vimeo

Videos are a huge area where your organization has an opportunity to be accessible. Both YouTube and Vimeo are widely used by organizations and offer ways to be more accessible. It is important to mention keyboard traps in reference to online video players. A keyboard trap “occurs when a person who uses a keyboard cannot move focus away from an interactive element or control using the keyboard alone.” In other words, a user can enter a video player using a keyboard, but cannot get back to the original page. That’s why your team should test and eliminate keyboard traps.

For YouTube:

Ensure all videos have closed captions, an audio description, and a full transcript (when possible because a transcript is useful for both those with hearing and visual impairments). While YouTube provides a feature that automatically captions videos less than 10 minutes in length, you should be cautious to make sure the transcript is accurate.

For Vimeo:

Vimeo partnered with Amara at the end of 2014 to help users make accessible videos for all. You can read about the accessibility updates on the Vimeo Blog. So now, in the same sense of YouTube, your organization can include closed captions and subtitles by utilizing the Amara editor, which is available to all Vimeo creators for free.

At the end of the day, many of the same accessibility best practices for your website should be considered on social media. You want to provide the best user experience for all your web visitors, whether they have a disability or not. We can all take the same approach with social media.

Want more tips on social media accessibility? Check out DigitalGov’s resource center and tips specific for each channel. Want to dive into the topic of digital accessibility and learn how to be more accessible to your web visitors? Download the Must-Have Accessibility Handbook.


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by Rachel Trampel
April 7th
2016

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