You'll notice that this LibGuide sometimes uses "person first language" (a person with a disability), while other times it uses "disability first language." This is intended to reflect that the disabled community is not a monolith, and different people have different preferences.
The creation of this LibGuide would not have been possible without attending accessibility workshops and sessions hosted by Lori Lane from Disability Resources & Educational Services, information sciences graduate student Mark McCarthy, and Assistant Professor Tim Offenstein. Many thanks to each of them for sharing their time and expertise with students all over campus and helping us to create a more accessible world.
Many organizations use social media to reach out and communicate with their communities quickly and effectively. Social media is a great tool for connecting with relevant users, showing off your organization's fun side, and keeping followers up to date on events, policies, and other relevant information. But if content creators do not prioritize accessibility and inclusivity when posting on social media, they alienate large swaths of users. This LibGuide will delve into some of the best practices for creating accessible and inclusive social media content, provide tips on what to avoid, and link to resources that go into greater depth on how to execute certain accessibility practices.
All social media platforms have different levels of accessibility and offer different accessibility features, but no matter which platform you are using, the following best practices can be applied to posts you make on almost all platforms.
Formatting hashtags so that the first letter of each word is capitalized (aka: Camel Case or Title Case) makes them screen reader compatible. If all the letters in your hashtag are the same case, a screen reader will attempt to read it as a single word.
Alternative text (alt text) is read by screen readers and provides a textual alternative to visual images on the web for blind and low vision users. For more information on how to write good alternate text, check out the "alternative text" section of this LibGuide.
If you are posting videos on a social media platform - whether it's YouTube or Instagram - make sure your videos have captions so that everyone can enjoy them. This includes videos that you post in your stories too! While some platforms offer automatic captioning (which you should always edit for accuracy), you'll have to download third party apps to create captions on other platforms. Learn more about creating accessible captions in the "captions" section of this guide.
When a screen reader comes across an emoji, it narrates a description of the emoji to the user. So, when you post fifty red heart emojis in a row at the end of a tweet, someone using a screen reader has to listen to "red heart, red heart, red heart..." over and over again. Therefore, it's important to be conscious about not overusing emojis in social media posts. No need to get rid of them - just use them with care.
If you are creating or sharing a post about a person, make sure you describe them as they describe themselves. This means using the person's correct pronouns and finding out how they self-describe any aspect of their identity you are discussing. For example, while some people prefer "person-first language" (a person with autism), other people prefer "disability first language" (an autistic person). You may have to do a little research to find out how people describe themselves, but this is an important aspect of inclusivity.
At this time, only Twitter allows users to add alt text to GIFs, and only if the GIF is added through the platform's GIF search feature (not ones saved from a site like GIPHY and added to the tweet). For this reason, it's important to describe what is happening in a GIF in the text of the post, especially if it plays a key role in the understanding a post. Most users format a GIF description as follows: [GIF description: white man from History Channel's "Ancient Aliens" saying "I'm not saying it was the aliens...but it was the aliens"].
This hashtag, a play on the word "ally" is full of suggestions from disabled folks on how to increase accessibility in social media and beyond.