Beyond the website: Making your social media accessible

Accessibility is a big deal, and it should be: 15% of the world's population has some form of disability. And, while the focus on website accessibility is at an all-time high, it's crucial to think about your entire digital imprint. Are your social media feeds accessible?

Picture of hands holding a smartphone near a laptop, both devices show social media.

For most of us, social media is a critical communications channel where we have the most opportunity to interact with our audiences. According to the US Census Bureau, 15% of the world's population has some form of disability. Additionally, more than half of the world uses social media (58.4%)—that's 4.62 billion people around the world. This means that 693 million people who use social media have a disability.

So, getting your message out on key social platforms in a way that’s accessible to your entire audience is a smart move—and one that will help you drive better results. To get started, here are quick tips for making your content more accessible on major social media platforms.

YouTube

  • Transcribe, review and edit captions for your videos, and be sure to include the [cc] symbol in the title to let users know they’re available. YouTube does have automatic caption capabilities, but they are not always accurate; the best practice is to provide your own transcript to be used for closed captioning. (That’s especially important because many users watch videos without the sound on, including those without disabilities).
  • Include high-quality audio and try to include descriptions in the audio track that can convey critical information to people with low or no vision.
  • Provide transcripts in addition to closed captions; this will help users who want to read through content rather than watching a video (yes, they exist) as well as helping users with hearing impairment. It also can provide a search engine optimization (SEO) boost.
  • Use clear language in the video description.

Instagram

  • Instagram recently introduced automatic alternate text for images to benefit users with visual impairment. It utilizes object recognition technology to generate a description of photos for screen readers. Best practice for alternate text, though, is to add your own. When creating the caption for your post, click “Advanced settings” at the bottom of the page, and you’ll find an option to “write alt text.”
  • When you’re sharing a video, include a description of what is happening in the video as well.

TikTok

As the newest member in our social line-up, TikTok has done a good job starting and staying accessible. They have several accessibility features that make the app inclusive for people with visual and auditory disabilities.

  • If you make tiktoks that contain effects that may be harmful to people with photosensitive epilepsy, make sure they are properly marked.
  • Be sure to use the text-to-speech feature that converts typed text to a voiceover as it appears in the video. This feature is particularly helpful for visually impaired or blind users.
  • Their auto caption feature can be added during video editing or after you’ve uploaded and recorded a video. This feature helps viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing enjoy content without missing anything.

Twitter

  • Enable image descriptions through your profile settings. Full directions can be found here.
  • To make multi-word hashtags easier to read and for screen readers, write in camel case: capitalize the first letters of compound words as in #CommunityCollege or #WeAreHiring.
  • Spell out unfamiliar acronyms whenever possible; this is a communications best practice in general, because no matter how commonly it’s used, there are people in your target audience who aren’t going to be familiar with NCMPR, HCI, IABC, NRF, or even NPR. (We’re guessing there’s at least one of those you’re not familiar with…)
  • If your post includes a hyperlink, indicate what type of resource it is being linked to by adding [PIC], [VIDEO] or [AUDIO] before the link.
  • Provide closed captioning for videos that are uploaded directly. If uploading to YouTube, always provide a transcript to ensure accurate captioning.

Facebook

  • Just as with Twitter, spell out the first instance of an acronym so those using screen readers will be able to associate the sound of the acronym in future instances, e.g., National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) (and the rest of your audience will have a frame of reference).
  • Provide closed captioning for videos that are uploaded directly. If uploading to YouTube, always provide a transcript to ensure accurate captioning. Again, this is helpful for reaching your entire audience, because many people watch Facebook videos with their audio turned off. 

Snapchat

Snapchat’s accessibility features are unfortunately limited as of this writing, but there are still a few things you can do to make your Snapchat stories more accessible.

  • Keep accessibility in mind as you plan your story to ensure it makes sense as viewers watch your content. Ensure you’re using good lighting for photos and videos (this benefits all your users, not just those with disabilities).
  • If there is audio, have the speaker speak clearly and at a moderate pace to describe what is happening for viewers with limited vision or cognitive impairment.
  • When adding text captions, use a large font in a contrasting color to the background image if possible.

Need help? We can help you make your content accessible on social media or your website.