Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a worldwide event that shines a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities. Because everyone deserves to be able to use the web in the best way possible, GAAD raises awareness of steps we can all take to maximise how users experience web-based services, content and other digital products.
There are a few simple ways that we, as social media users, can optimise our content so that it can be consumed and enjoyed by blind and partially sighted people. Small changes to how we post content mean that it can be processed and transmitted more effectively by a piece of text-to-speech software known as a screen reader. Some screen readers also transmit text in a tactile form, such as Braille.
How to optimise social media content for screen readers
We’ve put together some tips for making your social media posts more accessible.
Add alt text to images
When you post an image on social media, you have the option to add alternative (alt) text. This is simply a brief description of the image, which a screen reader can then read aloud.
It’s generally recommended that image descriptions are kept short and succinct. Pick out a few key details, rather than writing a really long description that lists everything in the image. For example, if your photo is of a man eating ice cream on the beach with lots of people behind him, a good description might be “young man looking happy while eating ice cream on a sunny beach”. It’s unnecessary to detail all the people in the background or include insignificant details like the colour of the shirt he’s wearing.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all have their own way to add alt text:
Upload your photo, then click ‘edit photo’ and write your description in the ‘alternative text’ box. Click save and then publish.
Instagram currently only offers an alt text option for feed posts. For Instagram Stories, you can simply include a description in your post. For feed posts, upload your photo, click ‘next’, ‘advanced settings’, and then select ‘write alt text’. Add your description, then share as normal.
On Twitter, the image description can be added separately to the main text. This is great because it saves you time and characters. When you attach your image, simply click ‘+Alt’, add your description, then post as normal.
Create a post as you normally would, add your image, then click the ‘add alt text’ option that appears in the top corner. Write your description, save, then publish your post.
Use CamelCase in hashtags
A CamelCase hashtag is one that has a capital letter at the start of each word. For example, instead of #birthdaycake, you’d write #BirthdayCake. This means that your hashtags will be pronounced correctly by screen readers (it also makes them easier to read for everyone else).
Limit your use of emojis
Screen readers will read out emojis, which means that posts with a lot of emojis may become confusing. If you include five heart emojis in your post, the software will read out “heart heart heart heart heart”. Use emojis sparingly and don’t pepper them throughout the text of your post. This will make your content easier to understand and generally more engaging for people using a screen reader.
Select fonts carefully
There are several different font options on Instagram Stories, but not all of them are easy to read for people who are partially sighted. Strong/bold fonts and high contrast (for example, a black font on a light background) are the best options if you want to make your Stories easy to read. Cursive fonts are best to avoid. It’s also worth using a larger font size and making sure you’re not cramming too much text on the screen.
There are ways to make your copy stronger and more engaging for users with screen readers. We recommend using shorter sentences (this is good practice for snappy, digestible social posts anyway!) and including a clear, descriptive call to action (CTA). Examples of a good CTA might be “read our blog post: [LINK]” or “contact us on [NUMBER] today”.
Don’t forget to make your video content accessible
For a video to be fully accessible, it should have subtitles. This is also good practice for videos that you plan to share on social media, as it has been estimated that 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound!
Audio description generally isn’t necessary, as long as your videos are audio led. If your video doesn’t send the same message audibly as it does visually, try to add a description of what happens in the video. You can either do this in a separate tweet or in the caption.
You can find more general tips on creating great video content here!
Why is digital accessibility important?
First and foremost, accessibility and inclusivity are important because everyone deserves the chance to access and enjoy the web (and other digital content) in the same way. With the technology we have out our fingertips, no single person should feel excluded or unwelcome in digital spaces.
From a business perspective, creating accessible content just makes good sense. The more engaging your social media posts are for everybody, the wider your reach will be.