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September 30, 2019

How to Make Your Social Media More Accessible

Author: Valerie Baker

If you’ve been to our blog before, you’ve probably seen several articles about ADA website compliance and accessibility. Here at Atilus, we advocate and promote web accessibility internally as well as to our clients. We’ve taken the steps to ensure our own website meets compliance standards (WCAG 2.0 AA) and we are also working to promote the same message to our clients.

As you can see, we’re well-versed in accessibility for websites, however, I attended the Digital Summit in Tampa earlier this month, and my perspective completely shifted as it relates to another avenue for accessibility: social media.

We’ve gone above and beyond to educate ourselves about website accessibility and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for websites, but the idea that we need to take some steps on social media never occurred to me. I’d always assumed that each platform was responsible for its own accessibility, and that as a content creator, I had no control over making social media accessible.

Carmen Collins, the Senior Social Media & Talent Brand Manager for Cisco, did an amazing presentation on how to make your social media more accessible and given that we are trying to promote accessibility for all, I thought it would make a perfect topic for our own blog. (Carmen, if you ever read this: this was the single most important session I attended! Thank you!)

Below are 6 ways you can make your social media presence more accessible.

Camel Case Hashtags

Hashtags are very common in social media. They’re the driving force of how we categorize our content and allow other people to find it and engage with it. Carmen explained that to make social media more accessible, we should use “Camel Case Hashtags,” which is as follows:

Regular hashtag as we’re used to using it: #webdesign

“Camel Case” hashtag: #WebDesign

For those that may have a temporary or permanent cognitive disability, the words strung together may be hard to read. (And in general, some of these larger hashtags are hard to read – am I right?)

An Instagram Post from Atilus Describing Camel Case Hashtags

Moving forward, you’ll start to see our own hashtags written in Camel Case.

Emojis in Moderation

We all LOVE Emojis (I, too, am guilty). They can be a great way to catch someone’s eye and overall give your social media content a little extra oomph. However, it’s recommended to use Emojis in moderation.

Users with disabilities can use assistive devices, including a screen reader. For a user who may be fully or partially blind, Emojis are essentially meaningless. If you post a photo with Emojis as the only caption, it gives no context to the user that can’t see it. Their screen reader would read it exactly as it is coded to be read (in most cases, just the thing it literally is).

A Facebook post of Kristen's headshot showing just Emojis

You can see in the photo here that I’ve uploaded my headshot with a few Emojis. Without a photo, would you have any clue what this would be about? A good rule of thumb is that if the user can understand the context of the post without the Emoji you are about to include, it will be accessible.

Emoji Descriptions

Text on Images and Using Alt Text

Text on images is also another thing that is okay to do, but you should try to do it moderation.

Like the above example with Emojis, if your only context about the post itself lies in the text in the image, screen readers will not be able to read it back to the user. Hence, they will be able to make no sense of the post.

Take this post from City Tavern, a popular bar in Downtown Fort Myers. If you were to remove the image entirely, would you be able to access the same content? (Days, times, etc.). The answer is no, and they should consider posting the actual content in the post itself if they want to be more accessible.

A Facebook post from City Tavern, a bar, about best use in text on images

I think that a good rule of thumb here would be to use Facebook’s ad checker. Facebook only allows ads with 20% text or less on an image, and that may be a good approach to take in general social media posts.

Another way to help users understand what is on an image is to use alt text. Alt text is what is rendered with an image and is something that screen readers can see/read. For example, the above post’s alt-tag could read “schedule of events at City Tavern this week.” Each platform is different, and it is a setting you’ll need to enable in each one (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

Remember, if the text is in an image and not a part of the content of the post itself, some users may not be able to access it at all.

Design for the Channel

Designing for the channel is very important. This isn’t just for accessibility, either. When we cross into designing for the channel, I think it’s important for overall usability.

I know that many companies just LOVE social media scheduling tools. I personally can’t stand them. And here’s why.

Social media scheduling tools (HootSuite, Social Pilot, etc.) are here to make our lives easier so we can schedule posts that go out on all platforms at the same time. While I can appreciate the effort to save time, I think usability suffers. When you create an image for Facebook, it won’t appear the same on Instagram. Or Twitter. So, why should we continue to post ill-formatted images to these networks?

If the context of the photo is cut off or different based on the platform, some users may not be able to view it. Because of this, it’s important to use proper ratios and image sizing when posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Descriptive Link Text

You’ll often find companies linking to pages on their website to get the user to take an action of some kind. If you’re like me, you’ve probably used something like “click the link for more information.” What I didn’t know was that by doing this, I could be misguiding someone that is using assistive technology and they wouldn’t know what they were clicking.

Screen readers and other devices often separate links from the rest of the content, so if there are multiple links and they all simple say “click here for more information,” screen readers don’t differentiate that.

To help screen readers and other devices understand what the user is supposed to do, you should use descriptive link text. This basically means you’re going from this:

Click here for more information


Click the link to download a PDF about our new security solutions service.

By doing so, a user can understand clearly what they are clicking to download or open.

Video Captions

Captions. Captions. Captions. These are hugely important for both your website and your social media presence. And they are SO easy to implement!

I think that the reasoning behind using captions on videos is self-explanatory. The idea is that users who may be hearing impaired can watch your video and still understand what is being said.

We recently posted a few videos of our team members talking about our 14th anniversary and it was important to me that we put captions on the videos. We used a tool called Rev to do our captions. You can upload your video and within 24 hours (literally), they provide you with the necessary files to upload alongside your videos, so you have captions. It’s around $1 per minute and a quick turnaround time, so there is no reason NOT to start posting videos with captions on them.

A Facebook post of an Atilus video with closed captions

Web Accessibility: Websites & Beyond

As time goes on, I think we will find more things we can do to make the web a more inclusive place for all. As for us, we’ll continue to learn, grow, and find new ways to help ourselves and our clients make their websites and social media presence more accessible.

If you have questions about this post or want to discuss ADA website compliance for your website, please contact us by phone at (239) 362-1271 or click this link to email us.

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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