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Making your social media accessible

13 October 2020

With any social media post, you want to reach as big an audience as you can. However, many organisations make the mistake of immediately limiting their potential reach by failing to make their social media accessible to everyone. At RNIB accessibility is always at the forefront of what we do so we’ve brought together some simple tips and advice which can help you to make your social media accessible.

Before we dive in, it’s important to remember that this isn’t about making drastic and time-consuming changes, but instead getting into good habits. A few small tweaks here and there can ensure your posts reach everyone, as the Government’s advice on principles of making content accessible to all says: “Accessibility should be built in from the start – it’s the right thing to do and will help your campaigns reach more of the people you need to.”

Here are our tips that can help you make a big difference in making your social media accessible:

Add image descriptions

Describing photos, or putting alternative text (alt-text), for people who are blind or partially sighted is really important, as it allows them to build up a mental picture of what someone who is sighted is seeing automatically. If your graphic is very text-heavy, include a link to your website in the post copy where people can access all of the text on the image. Even the Queen does this so it’s a royally good tip! 

But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to describe every single detail of the image. It is frustrating to listen to a voiceover read out a 1000-word description with irrelevant detail. Just pick out a few key details that paint the picture and don’t include ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’.

Use CamelCase in hashtags

When you’re using hashtags, always use CamelCase and capitalise the first letter of every word. This means that the words in the hashtag are read out correctly by screen readers. It also makes them easier to read for everyone else. For example, you would write #HowISee, rather than #howisee. Ideally, you should use your hashtags at the end of your post to avoid disrupting the flow.

Don’t go emoji-crazy

Text-to-speech software reads out a description for every single emoji which is used, so be careful with the amount of emojis you include and don’t repeat the same emoji multiple times. For example, if someone puts four Star emojis, the software will read out: “star star star star”.

https://twitter.com/RNIB/status/1284043478951964673

You should also avoid using emojis to communicate a core message. For instance, politicians often use country flags in tweets, but not everyone will recognise a tiny 0.5cm flag – especially when there are flags (such as Australia and New Zealand) which look the same at that size.

To gif or not to gif?

Gifs can be distracting for some people with learning difficulties, so try to use them sparingly. When you do use them, be sure to check the transition times to ensure the audience can follow the content – and add an image description if uploading a gif to Twitter. Gifs on other channels are currently not accessible to blind and partially sighted people – but a good workaround here is to instead use a short looping video that is audio-led or has a voiceover reading any text, or including a description of the gif in your post copy.

Avoid flashing images as people with photo sensitivities (like epilepsy) may be affected by fast flashing images. Nothing should flash more than three times per second.

Readability is key

Accessibility is also about readability as the average reading age of the UK population is nine years old. So, try to use short sentences, avoiding huge chunks of text and keep messages simple. Also, use line breaks so it’s clearer to read. Accessible copy is simple copy, and simple copy is effective.

Colour and contrast

It’s important to carefully consider how you use colour. For instance, you shouldn’t use colour as the only way to convey a key message or information in charts and tables. Instead, make sure your written messaging is clear with published data. You should also ensure you have good contrast on images and use block colours – avoiding pale colours on pale or white backgrounds and dark colours on dark backgrounds.

Fonts

Don’t use non-standard fonts, like italics, or non-standard symbols as these can confuse screen reading software.

Descriptive links

Customise short URLs to describe content. Bitly is a good tool for this. Example: https://rnib.in/WorldUpsideDownQuiz. Keep to just one link per post, multiple links are frustrating to navigate for people using keyboard shortcuts.

Videos: when to audio-describe

Videos don’t need to be audio-described, as long as they are audio-led. This means that the audio must be as important as what’s on screen. The video should send the same message, both audibly and visually. If it doesn’t, try to add a description of what happens in the video either as a follow-up tweet, or as part of the caption.

Subtitle it up

Videos must have subtitles to be fully accessible. Make sure you use block colour behind subtitles, rather than words over moving images. Headliner is an easy to use video editing tool (free for charities) that adds automatic subtitles which you can amend and then download.

When broadcasting live videos, you should upload a full transcript as soon as possible after your broadcast ends.

Ensure your videos have clear titles and descriptions on YouTube. If you are embedding YouTube videos on other platforms, like your website, make sure you publish a full transcript for viewers. You should also upload transcripts for your podcasts. Where possible, use true text (e.g. a Word doc) for your transcriptions, rather than a pdf.

Stay alert for new accessibility features

Now you know how to make your social media posts accessible, you’re all set to take the world of social media by storm. But don’t forget to regularly check for new accessibility features on the relevant platform(s) you use.

Good websites/channels to follow to stay on top of the latest news include:

Image: Dan Gold on Unsplash

Katherine Hughes

Social Media Manager, RNIB

Katherine Hughes is the Social Media Manager at RNIB, the UK’s leading sight loss charity

Georgie Bullen

Content Manager, RNIB

Georgie Bullen is a visually impaired Content Manager at RNIB.