Like any digital content, social media posts are more accessible when created in a way that people experiencing an impairment or disability—whether permanent, temporary, or situational—can understand. When content is accessible it works with assistive technologies like screen readers, personal voice assistants (e.g. Siri, Alexa, etc.), speech to text, screen magnifiers, braille displays, keyboards, switches, etc. Good access also means good business. Accessible social media positively impacts cultural expectations and tells the audience they matter. When posts are composed with accessibility in mind, they work better for everyone.
While various social media platforms and applications may vary in terms of what modifications can be made, there are some basic steps you can take with your content to help improve accessibility.
Keep the information clear, direct and to the point. Remember that social media is meant to be a conversational form of communication and posts are usually skimmed.
Start with the most important information first and keep to one point per paragraph. Write short sentences and small chunks of text with concise ideas. Avoid jargon.
Acronyms are not always compatible with screen readers. It’s best to avoid them when possible. If used, always spell out the acronym the first time it appears in the post. Don’t assume your readers will automatically know what an acronym stands for. Using periods between letters will allow screen readers to read it one letter at a time.
Images and Videos
Any element that is not text-based should have the same content communicated in a text format. Non-text elements include images, videos, audio, figures, GIFs, etc. Text equivalents are provided in the form of alternative text, also called alt text, image descriptions, captions, and transcripts. This helps to make sure that people who can’t see or hear your content get the same information as those who can. Don’t use images or memes to tell the full story.
Alt text provides a very short and concise meaning to the image. It should describe only what the picture conveys. Alt text can vary depending on the context of the image. Consider what the intended meaning of the image is and how it relates to the post. Do not use auto-generated alt text if the option is available. You, as the content creator, have the best understanding of what the meaning of the image is and how to best relay that.
An image description is a very detailed depiction of the image that is included in the body of the post. It allows someone who can’t see the image to accurately imagine what it looks like.
Word Art and other types of pictures of text are not screen-reader friendly. Assistive technology will only determine there is an image present, it will not be able to read the text. Any text that appears in the image must also be included in the body of the post.
Include either open or closed captions on videos. Open captions refer to text that is burned into a video file and cannot be turned off. Closed captions are separate subtitle files that can be turned on or off within the video. Captions should include important non-verbal information, such as music playing, ambient sounds, and laughter.
Captions benefit a large audience, including people who speak English as a second language, by helping to improve viewer comprehension. Captions also improve searchability. Some platforms, such as YouTube, automatically generate captions but they should always be manually checked for accuracy. For example, the word “Oswego” is often translated as “us we go.” See our YouTube captioning tutorial for more information.
A screen reader will read each character of a URL. Whenever possible, it is recommended to embed links behind text. For example, SUNY Oswego. However, due to the nature and limitations of some social media platforms, this is not always an option. As an alternative to using a full URL, Bitly.com or Short.io can be used to create shortened links. These tend to have better interpretation by screen readers than full URLs.
When embedding, link text should be one or two words or a short phrase that concisely describes where the link goes. Avoid using full sentences or vague phrases such as “click here” or “learn more.”
Hashtags are used quite often in social media to make a post searchable, to gain attention, and to connect with similar communities or pages. However, too many hashtags can make the post complicated, cumbersome, and annoying to someone using assistive technology.
Place hashtags at the end of the post, not in the middle of sentences. For better overall readability and interpretation by screen readers, use CamelCase—capitalizing the first letter of each word, for example #OswegoLakers.
While emojis are another popular way to make a message stand out, they are not compatible with most screen readers. Do not use emojis in place of words in the middle of a sentence. When using emojis, put them at the end of the post. Use emojis with caution. Sometimes the meaning of an emoji is not what you may think and could change the context of the post. Don’t use emojis to tell the full story.
The best structure for a post is:
- Main text content
- Hashtags and @ mentions