Improve the accessibility of your social media channels!

Smartphone with cut out text balloons above it with social media symbols

Do you use social media a lot for business? Or does your company use social media for its contacts with customers and potential users? Then you may wonder how accessible these channels actually are for people with a challenge. Because although Dutch law requires (semi-) government institutions to make their websites and apps accessible according to WCAG guidelines, social media are excluded. And that is quite strange. Because why would you leave the part of the website that you use to contact your user outside the scope? That’s why we offer you a number of suggestions to improve the accessibility of your social media channels!

Tip 1 – Check the social media platforms for accessibility tips!

First of all, check the information of the social media platforms themselves. Although they do not automatically have to comply with accessibility guidelines, they are busy improving their services. Various platforms are now working hard to make the use of their channels more accessible.

If you want to get started with making your social media channels more accessible, it is useful to stay informed of the developments in those different media:

Tip 2 – Make your texts accessible!

That of course sounds a bit like a slam dunk. A clear text does not only help people with challenges to better understand what you mean. But before you send your message out into the world, it might be useful to read through the following suggestions.

Limit the use of emojis and emoticons

They often look nice and you probably use them to make your message stand out. Screen readers, however, simply read aloud these types of symbols. So people hear “smiling face with open mouth and closed eyes” or “colon closed parenthesis”. You can imagine that a frequent use of these symbols in your message leads to unclear spoken text for those using assistive technology. Before using an emoji, it is wise to take a look at how this symbol translates into text.

Use CamelCase when hashtags consist of multiple words

When using a multi-word hashtag, such as #SocialMedia or #VirtualReality, make sure that the single words are separated by a capital letter, called CamelCase. A screen reader recognizes the individual words more easily and there is no confusion with the pronunciation. #Blacklivesmatter is pronounced “black live smatter” by a screen reader.

Hashtags and mentions at the end

In any case, make sure to include hashtags and @ mentions at the end of your message. Since screen readers read all punctuation marks, your message will be messy and unclear.

Tip 3 – Give your images a description

People who cannot see or have difficulty seeing an image depend on descriptive or alternative text (Alt text) to understand what is happening in an image. Missing or incorrectly displaying alt text on an image is still the most common problem with inaccessible content according to WebAIM.

The various social media offer options to add alt text to images:

Some suggestions for when you write an alt text:

Avoid “image of” or “picture of”

A screen reader knows that there is an image and also announces this during the reading. If you start an alt text with “image of” or “picture of”, it will be spoken twice.

Describe the content

It is not enough to add an image to an article about the collapse of the stock market with the alt text “chart with the development of the daily share prices”. It is more understandable to add an alt text like: “line graph of the daily share prices of the AEX, which was still at 600 points this morning at 9:00 am and at 530 points this afternoon at 4:00 pm.”

Describe color if it matters

Color can sometimes give extra meaning to what can be seen. So not “Beautiful sunset” but “Beautiful sunset makes the sky purple, pink, orange …”

Don’t forget the GIFs!

Many GIFs have no description. Twitter offers the option to add alt text to a GIF. When a social media platform does not offer the possibility to describe GIFs via alt text, at least describe them yourself in an accompanying text.

Tip 4 – Add video captions

Adding a subtitle to a spoken text makes the video accessible not only to people who are deaf or partially hearing. It also helps non-native speakers to follow a video better. Or children learning to read. Or people who want to watch the video message in an environment where no sound is desired or where it is very noisy. Research shows that people remember the content of a video message better when it is subtitled.

With the various social media platforms you can add subtitles to your video as follows:

Need help making your website accessible or usable?

Do you have an inaccessible website or do you need help making your website more usable? We can help you! Do you want to know more? Please contact us.