The Case for Accessible Social Media

Submitted by Dana Barton on Thu, 01/10/2019
Person using a black iPad

Social media has become a routine part of everyday life throughout the United States. According to Statistica, 81% of the US population had a social networking profile in 2017, with an estimated 3.02 billion monthly active social network users worldwide by 2018.

The World Health Organization estimates that close to 15% of the world’s population is living with some form of disability, making the conversation about social media accessibility imperative for these nearly 785 million people.

The ADA does not have specific requirements for social media accessibility. However, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act does provide basic standards for web design, which are required for all government sites.

Some of the most common social media accessibility issues include poor color contrast, inability to navigate using a keyboard only, missing text equivalents for images, the inability to resize text, and videos lacking captioning. It’s important to know that the platform used, may limit accessibility, but you are in control of making the content you post accessible.

If you are at a loss for where to begin, here are our top tips for accessible social media content that the Rocky Mountain ADA Center uses every day.

Social Media for All

Consider all disabilities, not just those who are blind or have  visual obstacles. These may include hearing, motor, or cognitive disability. Each category of disability requires certain adaptations in the design of your social media content.

Accessible Content is Common Sense

  • Keep your content simple and write in plain language. That is, communication that can be understood the first time a user reads or hears it.
  • Always include your main content first and your hashtags and @mentions at the end of a post.
  • Even a hashtag can be accessible! Use camel case when you capitalize the first letter of compound words, like this: #RockyMountainADACenter.
  • Avoid the use of acronyms, abbreviations, and text messaging shortcuts, such as OMG or LOL.
  • If a tweet or Facebook post includes an image, video, or audio, be sure to link back to the web page that contains the image, video or audio with a full caption/transcript.
  • Information that is conveyed visually should include descriptive text readable by screen readers for individuals who are blind or who have low or limited vision.

Best Practices

  • Do not rely on color as a navigational tool or as the only way to differentiate items.
  • Use Alt Text for your images – and complex images should have a more extensive description.
  • Make sure functionality is accessible through both the mouse and keyboard and items are tagged to work with voice-over systems.
  • Provide full text transcripts for podcasts.
  • When using video, provide visual access to the audio information through in-sync captioning.

Testing

You can test your content using a screen reader or other type of assistive technology. It’s good practice to test your content for accessibility periodically.

Different Platforms, Different Tools

  • Facebook uses automatic alternative text. It recognizes content of certain images and those with screen readers will hear a description of the basic image. Also, Facebook has an accessibility page you can follow to receive news and updates.
  • Twitter has a setting called “image description feature.” It allows you to add a caption to any picture you use in a tweet. Twitter also has a long list of keyboard shortcuts for keyboard only users.
  • YouTube has a feature that will automatically caption videos, but it is not always accurate. We recommend that you prepare your own transcript and upload it whenever possible.

When your social media isn’t accessible, you limit your reach and effectiveness of these platforms. Using these tips will help increase accessibility and provides a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities.

Our team at the Rocky Mountain ADA Center is available to provide free technical assistance if you or your organization needs assistance in developing accessible social media.  


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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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