Social Media

Elevating Inclusivity: Crafting Accessible Social Media Content

By Matisse Hamel-Nelis on June 26, 2023

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Creating inclusive digital content is no longer a courtesy—it’s a responsibility. With the digital world becoming increasingly visual, ensuring everyone can engage with your content, including the estimated 285 million individuals worldwide who experience some form of sight loss, is crucial. Here, we explore strategies for crafting accessible social media content that every user can appreciate.

Alt Text: Visual Description for People with Sight Loss

Alternative text, or alt text, describes an image that users with sight loss can hear via screen readers. It’s a cornerstone of accessibility, designed to provide an equivalent user experience to those who cannot see images on their screens.

The key to writing effective alt text is being concise yet descriptive. For instance, instead of writing “dog,” a more detailed description such as “a poodle puppy playing with a blue ball in a park” provides a richer context.

GIFs and Memes: Balancing Trendiness with Accessibility

GIFs and memes, although trendy and relatable, can pose challenges to accessibility.

GIFs can contain rapid flashing image sequences, which may induce photosensitive reactions. Opt for slower, less flashy GIFs that don’t compromise the viewer’s comfort and safety.

Memes often rely on visuals combined with text; remembering to provide alt text is crucial. Describe the image and any overlaid text so that people with sight loss can enjoy the humour or the message.

Camel Case for Hashtags: An Accessibility Champion

Hashtags are integral to social media, connecting conversation threads across platforms. However, for screen reader users, a string of words without spaces sounds like gibberish. This is where Camel Case — writing without spaces or punctuation and capitalizing the first letter of each word—comes into play.

For instance, the hashtag #socialmediaaccessibility would be more accessible as #SocialMediaAccessibility. The capital letters allow screen readers to recognize and pronounce each word separately, enhancing understanding for the user.

Emojis: Enhancing Expression or Encumbering Understanding?

Emojis, the charming symbols we use to express our emotions in the digital world, can become an obstruction when overused. Some screen readers interpret emojis literally, reading out a description of each one. For instance, a simple smiley face could be read as a “face with a slight smile.”

While a few emojis can add flavour to your posts, overuse can lead to confusion and annoyance. Ensure your emojis are contextually relevant and are used sparingly.

ASCII Art: Creativity vs. Accessibility

ASCII art, a form of drawing pictures on the computer screen using printable symbols, might seem innovative to express concepts textually. However, ASCII art is not typically accessible to screen readers. To a screen reader, an ASCII drawing is just a random string of characters without meaningful context. Therefore, if ASCII art is used, make it an image that you add accompanying alt text. This is crucial to get the meaning of the design across and be accessible.

Leveraging Accessibility Features Across Platforms

Different social media platforms provide unique accessibility features to enhance the experience of all users:

  • Twitter: Allows users to add alt text to images, making the platform more accessible for people with sight loss. You have 1,000 characters to do this.
  • Facebook: Generates alt text automatically for images, though manual checking for accuracy is advised. Facebook also offers closed captioning for videos, benefiting users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Instagram: Like its parent company Facebook, Instagram can generate alt text for images. However, users are encouraged to add their custom descriptions for accuracy.
  • LinkedIn: Similar to Twitter, LinkedIn offers an alt text option for images and auto-generated captions for videos. And, just like Twitter, you now have 1,000 characters to do so.

The Road to Digital Inclusion

To achieve true digital inclusivity, we must broaden our perspectives, recognizing and respecting the diversity within our audience. This means understanding their challenges and developing strategies that ensure they can access, interact with, and enjoy our content—just like everyone else.

Understanding the power of alt text, balancing the trendiness of GIFs and memes with accessibility, utilizing CamelCase for hashtags, using emojis wisely, and providing descriptions for ASCII art are just the first few steps toward creating a more inclusive digital world.

Let’s embrace these strategies and create a digital landscape where everyone is invited and belongs. It’s not just about complying with accessibility standards—it’s about creating a social media culture that genuinely represents and respects all its users.

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