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Since most of the information and entertainment we consume today comes via the Internet, making our social media accounts accessible to people with disabilities needs to be a priority. It can be daunting, but there are simple, practical and effective ways to incorporate accessibility into your social media presence. When you do so, you’re not only making accessibility a priority, but also the people that rely on it for equal access.
Here are six strategies to make your social media accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
I. Describe all images
Image descriptions are exactly what they sound like–text descriptions of an image. Photos, memes, charts or event posters… they all need one. If the text of a post is written within a photo, blind and visually impaired people don’t have any way to access that information since screenreading software can’t read graphic formats. Instead, write a short description of the photo or caption the photo with the text that appears within.
Include the blind and visually impaired in your posts by adding image descriptions to your posts. Check out these guidelines for adding image descriptions on X [formerly Twitter] as well as how to edit alternative text on Facebook.
II. Capitalize your Hashtags
Hashtags may seem self-explanatory, but they can be very confusing for blind and visually impaired Internet users, particularly those that use a screenreader. When a hashtag is read aloud, it’s read as one seamless word, even though there may be several words present, resulting in a string of garbled speech.
Fix this problem by capitalizing the first letter of each word in the hashtag. This prompts screenreaders to pronounce it correctly, pausing between each word, and turning #socialmediaaccessibility to #SocialMediaAccessibility.
III. Find The Right Font
Fonts don’t need to be fancy. In fact, they can be distracting. For low-vision users, intricate fonts are harder to read. For screenreader users, fonts don’t always just read out the text but the associated text styles such as bold, italics, underline and strikethrough.
Make your post easier to read by using simple fonts and avoiding dressing them up with special characters. Switch to an easier font and focus on enhancing your content for the best results.
IV. Cut Back on Emojis
Similar to fonts, less is more when it comes to emojis. They aren’t here to replace text, but enhance it. Using an excessive amount adds to the frustration of screenreader users who don’t just see one symbol, but are given an entire description… and imagine if this is read 10 times in succession!
What you see 😊
What I hear using VoiceOver on the iPhone: Smiling face with smiling eyes and rosy cheeks
Eleven syllables for one emoji!
Save your reader time and maintain their interest by cutting back on the emojis and only using them strategically and with purpose. It’s to your benefit as much as your reader’s.
V. Use Contrasting Colours
For low-vision Internet users, contrasting colours make all the difference.
Steer clear from grey as well as bright, neon colours and avoid using colours that clash with the background image. Instead, opt for a combo of light text on a dark background or dark text on a light background. Consider outlining black text in white [or vice versa], and for images that contain text, place it in a space that is less busy and on a solid-coloured or white background. To learn more about accessible colour combinations, check out the Accessible Colour Palette Builder.
Simplify the reading experience by using colours that enhance the text and make it easy to read.
VI. Ask For Input
Perhaps the most vital way to make your social media presence accessible to people with visual impairments is to ask. No one expects you to be an expert in the field and there’s no shame in asking for input. People with disabilities are usually more than happy to give feedback on accessibility because now they know that their input is valued and you are a person or business that cares about inclusion of people of all abilities.
How’s your social media’s accessibility? Does it need a touch-up? If you found these tips helpful, let me know in the comments!