Liking someone’s Instagram post from 2017? Posting TV spoilers? Backseat gaming? All big no-no’s when it comes to social media etiquette, but what about not making your posts accessible in the first place?
Online accessibility means that everyone can join in the discourse, the memes, and much more. It’s a love note that says ‘we want you here, this is for you too’. Here’s our guide to accessible social media etiquette.
Use image descriptions correctly
The intended purpose for image descriptions is to make images accessible for blind and partially sighted people. They’re a written description of an image – not for extending your copy, adding photo credits, or solely for boosting Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Add image descriptions to memes and gifs
When it comes to alt text, memes and gifs can often be forgotten. Add image descriptions to your memes and gifs in the same way you would with images. If you don’t, screen readers will simply read the filename; BeyonceHair.gif for example, which doesn’t describe what is happening in the gif.
Consider alternative formats for lots of text
There are character limits for alt text. So, those wordy graphics simply won’t fit into the box, no matter how hard you try. That’s why it’s crucial to provide the information in alternative ways. For example, link to the information on your website, or split the wordy graphic into two or three less wordy graphics to help split the alt text character counts.
Audio-led and audio described video
Audio-led videos are when the intended message is shared, both audibly and visually. Audio described videos include a narration of what’s happening in the video, giving details of the visual elements. You should always aim for audio-led, or audio described content. Videos with funky music and cool visuals might look good, but they’re not accessible.
Add open or closed captions
Always caption your videos. It’s not only people who are deaf or hard of hearing that benefit from captions – lots of people find captions useful. Closed captions can be turned on and off if the viewer chooses and can be resized. Open captions, on the other hand, are always visible and cannot be turned off by a viewer. Whether you’re using open or closed captions, there are lots of tools out there to help you. Take a look at this article on CharityComms by RNID on how to caption social media content and why you should.
Use inclusive language
Everyone has language preferences. It’s important to know how disabled people refer to themselves and their disabilities. For example, are we using the social model of disability, or using person-first/disability-first language? Take time to connect with your audience, as this will help you to gain a deeper understanding of them.
Don’t use fancy fonts
Fancy fonts on social media might make your posts stand out, but they’ll stand out for a lack of accessibility too. Not only can they be difficult to read, they’re also not accessible for screen reader users. Screen readers will either say “bold” or “italic” before each letter or skip the text altogether. This means that blind and partially sighted people will miss out on what you’re trying to say.
Use #CamelCase for hashtags
Camel Case, sometimes called Pascal Case, refers to capitalising the first letter of each word within hashtags. This ensures that they’re read out correctly by screen readers. It also makes them easier to read for everyone. For example, #SusanAlbumParty, and not #susanalbumparty… if you know, you know.
Don’t overuse emojis
Everyone loves an emoji, but screen readers will read out the name of every single emoji you include in your posts. So, it’s best to limit yourself to one or two per post.
Be mindful of emoji names. What you might think of as the ‘crying laughing emoji’, a screen reader will call the ‘face with tears of joy emoji’. Don’t rely on emojis to get your intended message across. If in doubt, check the emoji descriptions on EmojiPedia.
Ensure what you’re linking to is accessible
If you’re linking to external information or resources, take a moment to recognise whether they’re accessible or not. If you aren’t sure, let your followers know. Be honest and transparent.
Don’t get defensive if someone points out your post isn’t accessible
Rather than kicking yourself for missing the mark, take it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Aim for progress, not perfection
If you aim for perfection, you’ll never make progress, but if you do your best and aim for progress, you’ll get a lot further.
The best way to get lots of people to do anything is to make it easy and valuable. If it was easier to make social media posts accessible, more people would do it and see the value in it. If a social media platform doesn’t allow you to easily make your posts accessible, let the platform know! Change doesn’t happen unless enough people demand change. Disabled people shouldn’t need to demand change alone. We all must play our part.
- Accessible Communication resource
- Accessible communications doesn’t have to be complicated
- Top tips for accessible communications
- Making your social media accessible
- Core principles for accessible design in print
Banner Image: Mariia Shalabaieva on Unsplash