At the beginning of 2020, the number of active social media users passed the 3.8 billion mark! No doubt in part to its accessibility – all you need is a device and internet connection. But for the millions of people living with a disability, social media can be a far less accessible place than you might think. In this article, we share our top 6 tips for creating accessible social media content.
1. Use camelCase for multi-word hashtags.
Capitalising the first letter of each word makes a hashtag easier to read and if a person is using a screen reader it will announce each individual word, rather than trying to read it as one long word.
#ThisIsEasierToRead than #thisistoread.
2. Don’t go overboard with emojis.
Screen readers will automatically read the description for emojis and emoticons, so if you use the same emoji 5 times in a row, it will read aloud the description 5 times in a row!
No one wants to hear ‘Face with tears of joy’ five times! 😂
And, ‘if ✌ you ✌ type ✌ like ✌ this’ a screen reader user will hear ‘if victory hands you victory hands type victory hands like victory hands this’.
This also applies to social media handles and keep in mind, what works in a visual context might not convey the same message when read aloud.
3. Add image descriptions.
Missing or ineffective alternative text (alt text) is one of the most commonly found accessibility issues. Text alternatives for people with a visual impairment helps them to understand the content or meaning of an image.
Tips for writing effective alt-text:
- Avoid using “a photo of” or “an image of”.
- Only include the key details that help to convey the content or meaning.
- Mention colour only if it is relevant.
- If the image includes text that is key to its meaning, include it in the alt text.
How to add alt text to social media:
- Facebook: Facebook will automatically create alt text for images you upload but you can override this by going to an image (after it has been published) and clicking ‘Options’, then ‘Change alt text’. Or add your own alt text whilst you upload your image by clicking on the ‘pencil’ icon that appears on top of the image and then ‘Alt text’.
- Twitter: Before you can add alt text, you need to activate ‘Compose image descriptions’ – this can be found in your Twitter account settings under the ‘Accessibility’ tab. You will then be prompted to add alt text each time you upload an image to a tweet.
- LinkedIn: Like Facebook, LinkedIn might automatically add alt text to your images, but you can add your own description by clicking ‘Add alt text’ when you upload an image. However, you can only add or edit alt text for images from a desktop device, this functionally is not yet available on mobile devices.
- Instagram: Alt text can be added when you are writing the caption for your Instagram images by clicking ‘Advanced settings’ and then ‘Accessibility’. This will then give you the option to include your alt text.
The character limit for alt text differs across social platforms so, if your image requires a longer alt-text you could include it in the body of each post. This can be as simple as writing your main text first, then including your image description at the end of the post, separated by brackets.
4. Add captions to videos
85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off, so adding closed captions not only benefits people with hearing impairments but everyone watching with the sound off!
YouTube and Facebook have auto-captioning options however, they are not 100% accurate. LinkedIn supports .srt files but you need to upload these at the same time as your content. Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all need closed captions burned in or encoded in advance. Useful third-party apps like Cliptomatic can transcribe your videos and add captions to the bottom of the screen.
5. Colour contrast should be at least 4:5:1
The colour contrast between text and its background colour should be at least 4:5:1. Low colour contrast can make reading more difficult, especially for people with low vision or colour blindness.
When layering text over an image, you also need to consider the contrast ratio between the background image and the text. Busy backgrounds can make text hard to read, so we recommend avoiding this where possible and adding the text to post description instead.
Remember if you add text to your image and its key to your message, include it in your alt text or image description.
6. Keep your links short
Wherever possible, keep your links short. Tools like Bitly offer not only a free and simple way to shorten URLs but a way to track link clicking activity in your posts.
Tools to help you create accessible social media content
Evaluate web content for accessibility issues in Chrome or Firefox using the Web Accessibility Evaluation browser extensions.
The Paciello colour contrast checker tool will help you to determine if the contrast ratio of two colours is accessible. This handy tool can be downloaded to both Mac and Windows desktop for easy access when you’re working with different programmes.
Check if your text is legible when layered on top of your picture background using this text over image accessibility tool. And, Facebook’s Image Text Check tool can be used to see if you have included too much text in an image.
Use a screen reader to test the effectiveness of your alt text. iPhones come with a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver (this is also a standard feature on macOS) and Android users can make use of TalkBack. You can also download free desktop-based screen readers such as NVDA. Using a screen reader to listen to your content can also help to highlight errors such as spelling mistakes or illogical reading orders.