Social Media Accessibility and Inclusive Design Tips to Bolster Users’ Attention

As the need for inclusivity grows, brands and marketers are rushing to improve accessibility and cater to the needs of a bigger audience. This goes beyond developing more accessible websites but also extends to social media as well. It’s important to focus on creating inclusive designs for your social media posts to make them accessible to users with disabilities.

So what exactly do we mean by inclusive design? And why does it matter so much on social media? More importantly, how can you make your social media posts more accessible with inclusive design? Read on to find out the answers to your pressing questions.

5 Social Media Inclusive Design Tips:

What is Social Media Accessibility and Inclusive Design?

Social media accessibility refers to the practice of creating social media posts and content that are accessible to users of varying backgrounds and abilities. Inclusive design involves designing and developing content that all users can engage with regardless of their abilities. It takes into consideration the different needs and experiences of users so that everyone can fully enjoy and interact with the content.

Inclusive design may involve designing for people from different cultural backgrounds or speaking different languages. It also involves catering to the needs of users with disabilities so they can access and engage with the content in spite of their unique challenges. So for example, it may involve including a descriptive alt text to help users with visual impairments understand visual content.

Why Inclusive Design Matters on Social Media

So what’s the big deal about using inclusive design on social media? Why should you care about maintaining accessibility for your social media posts?
The short answer is that you’d be excluding a lot of people when you don’t use inclusive design for your social media posts. Remember that these are people who could potentially be valuable customers for your brand.

In the United States, more than 40 million people live with a disability. And although there’s a digital divide between individuals with a disability and those without, at least 62% of adults with a disability own a desktop or laptop computer. Meanwhile, 72% also own a smartphone and 72% have access to high-speed internet. Moreover, three-quarters of Americans with disabilities use the internet on a daily basis.

Device Ownership among Adults with Disabilities

From these numbers, it’s safe to say that a significant portion of social media users are living with some kind of disability. Failing to cater to their needs and take their disability into consideration could lead to exclusion. And you’ll end up losing out on the opportunity to engage a valuable audience group.

To further break these numbers down, let’s consider specific types of disabilities that are relevant to social media use. Here are a few more numbers to give you a better idea.

  • More than 1 billion people around the world are living with vision loss, with 43 million being blind and 295 million having moderate to severe visual impairment.
  • Additionally, more than 1.5 billion people have hearing loss in at least one ear, with 70 million being deaf.

Considering that we mostly consume content through audio and visuals, the above numbers should be enough to convince you that inclusive design is vital. Not to mention that companies are bound by accessibility laws to ensure that their digital content is accessible to users with disabilities. So when you prioritize inclusive design for social media, it’s a win-win–people get to enjoy and interact with your content regardless of their abilities and you get to maintain compliance all while expanding your reach.

5 Inclusive Design Tips to Make Your Social Posts More Accessible

Now let’s move on to the practical aspects. What can you do to make your social posts more accessible? Here are a few inclusive design tips to help you get started.

Creating Accessible Social Posts Inclusive Design Tips

Always Include an Alt Text for Your Images

When posting visual content on social media, make sure you include alt text to help users with visual impairments understand what the image is about. An alt text is a short description of the image to help users visualize it even if they can’t see it. Screen readers will read out the description for them so they can understand what the content is all about. Here’s how it’ll look on Twitter.

Include Alt Text for Your Images

Without an alt text, the screen reader will simply tell them that there’s an image. This doesn’t help anyone as it doesn’t get your message across effectively and it makes for a poor experience for visually impaired users.

Unfortunately, alt text on social media is still extremely underused, with most leading brands failing to include it in their image posts. Some may do the bare minimum and offer a vague description that doesn’t really help users to visualize the image. As such, creating descriptive alt texts for your image posts is the perfect opportunity to set your brand apart from the competition.

Some social media platforms give you the option to automatically generate an image alt text for your posts. This involves the use of image recognition technology to describe an image. However, it’s better if you write it yourself since these auto-generated descriptions tend to be vague and may not necessarily get your message across.

Not sure how to write one? Think of a way to describe the image to someone who can’t see it. Then follow the best practices below to start writing your alt text.

  • Try to be as descriptive as possible while keeping it succinct.
  • Include relevant keywords wherever possible. This will help with your social media SEO and improve visibility in related searches.
  • Transcribe any text that may be included in the image. Remember that screen readers are unable to read the text in your images, so including it in your alt text helps to get your message across.
  • Avoid writing “image of” or “picture of” since these are a given.
  • Make sure to write an alt text for GIFs as well. If the platform doesn’t give you that option, include it in your description.

Improve Text Accessibility

If you’re creating text posts, you may think that you don’t have to take additional steps to make them accessible since screen readers can read text posts on social media. But it’s important to note that not all text posts are accessible. So while you may feel like playing around with fun typography, this isn’t necessarily the best idea if you want screen readers to be able to read your post.

Remember those fancy fonts and scripts that some users love to use? Well, the problem with those fonts is that they’re not necessarily accessible to screen readers. The technology is going to detect them as the mathematical characters they actually are and come up with a very confusing narration.

Text Accessibility

In other words, you have to make sure that even the text you’re posting is accessible to every user. Here are a few tips on improving accessibility for your social media text posts.

  • Skip the fancy fonts and write plainly (even at the risk of your text looking “boring”). Only use the platform’s designated fonts to create your text posts.
  • On the same note, avoid writing in all caps or alternating caps. This will sound like gibberish when screen readers try to read it out loud.
  • Make sure to spell out acronyms first. And don’t forget to add periods in between the abbreviations so the screen reader can read them correctly.
  • Use Pascal case to write your hashtags.

This would involve capitalizing the first letter of every word in your hashtag so they can be read properly. Check out how Colourpop Cosmetics uses Pascal case for their hashtags below.

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Include your hashtags and mentions at the end of the caption. If you include them in line with the caption, it’s going to interrupt the flow of narration.

On the same note, avoid using asterisks to replace letters or adding too many special characters. This will be confusing to read for screen readers and may create interruptions in the flow.

Include Closed Captions and Subtitles in Your Videos

Visually impaired users may be able to hear the audio in your social media video posts. But what about those users with a hearing disability? Or users who have some sort of sensory issues and would rather watch videos with the sound off? Not to mention non-native speakers who struggle to understand the language when spoken with a different accent.

That’s why including subtitles or closed captions in your social media videos is a crucial part of inclusive design. They make your content accessible to a bigger audience since it caters to individuals with varying needs and preferences.

Some social media platforms such as Instagram even have auto-generated captions. So you don’t have to manually transcribe the video yourself. Instead, the app will automatically generate captions coordinating with the speech in your video and display them to users. The feature can simply be enabled so that users can turn it on or off as they need.

You may even choose to add the subtitles yourself, which will be burned into the video while you’re creating it. This can’t be turned on or off according to users’ preferences. However, they may be suitable for brands that want to maintain very specific design guidelines since you’ll have control over the font style and color.

Regardless of whether you choose open or closed captions, make sure the font contrasts well against the background. This will ensure that the text is clearly visible to viewers, so they don’t have to squint to read it. Moreover, consider platform-specific details to ensure that the text isn’t covered by certain elements such as buttons and toolboxes.

Create Accessible Visuals

Making your visual content accessible isn’t just about adding a suitable alt text. Rather, your inclusive design should cover the overall design of the image as well. This would allow you to cater to people with varying visual needs such as users with photosensitivity or colorblindness, for example. Here are a few tips on how to create more accessible visuals for your social media:

Improve readability by maintaining the right color contrast. You need a minimum color contrast of 4.5:1 to ensure that any text overlay is legible for users.

  • Go easy on your text overlay. Avoid adding too much text in the image as it might be difficult for some users to read it. If you want to include more text information, use your caption space instead.
  • Avoid sharing animated images or videos with too much flashing, strobe effects, or excessive movement. This may be harmful to users with photosensitivity and may trigger epilepsy or migraines to name a few. If you must post this type of content, make sure to include a warning so they have enough time to pause and scroll away.
  • Don’t convey meaning solely using colors as it may be difficult to interpret for users with colorblindness. Instead, use colors in combination with symbols, labels, and text as appropriate.

Be Mindful of Emoji Use

Emojis may be a great way to break up text blocks and make your text posts a bit more fun. However, overusing them or using them incorrectly can spell trouble for your brand’s social media accessibility efforts. Use the following best practices to ensure that you’re using emojis mindfully in a way that doesn’t risk content accessibility:

  • Avoid using emojis in place of bullet points. Since screen readers have to read the emoji’s alt text, it can affect the clarity of your message.
  • Emojis should be added only at the end of sentences. Putting them in the middle will disrupt the flow of the sentence.
  • Limit your emoji use to three per post. Using too many of them can be disruptive and ruin the experience for users.
  • Skip out-of-context emojis. Every emoji you include in your post should add value and be meaningful.

For example, the following Fabletics post has a hand emoji pointing to the bottom i.e., the comments section. This emoji comes right after a question asking people what color they’re most excited to wear from the brand’s latest drop. So there’s clear context to the emoji, which will allow users to instantly understand why it’s included.

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A post shared by Fabletics (@fabletics)

Improve Your Social Media Accessibility

We’ve provided you with some actionable inclusive design tips that will help you make your social media posts more accessible. Make the most of these tips and create content that everyone can enjoy and engage with.

About the Author
Jacqueline Zote is a freelance writer and content producer. She writes for leading blogs in the digital marketing space. Her areas of expertise include influencer marketing, social media marketing, social media management, and content marketing.