The world of social media was built to bring people together, it has the word ‘social’ in it for a reason. These platforms are supposed to be places where we can build communities, discover new friendships and share our thoughts with the world.
It can be an incredible force for change and community cohesion. The problem? Most of us don’t use the features available to make it a more accessible and inclusive place.
Even ‘The Last Leg’, a TV programme with inclusion at its heart born from the 2012 paralympics, only recently realised they’d been making it difficult for visually imparied people to get involved by using lower case letters throughout their hashtags.
So let’s begin with CamelCase hashtags as highlighted by The Last Leg…
1. Use 'CamelCase' in hashtags
I’ve been recommending this for years mainly just because it makes hashtags, especially long ones, easier to read. But it has the added bonus of making hashtags more accessible for screen readers and therefore the visually impaired too.
Wait, what’s CamelCase? I hear your furrowed brow shout at the screen! It’s simply capitalising the first letter of each word in a hashtag. Easy.
I even tweeted about it in April asking the big four to look at how they could make this easier for users when suggesting hashtags, only LinkedIn replied. I imagine it’s quite difficult for a computer program to work out which letters should be capitalised, but it’s not difficult for us humans to do so, so we should just do it!
Writing #HashtagsForAll instead of #hashtagsforall will mean a screen reader can read each word and it’s just easier for us all to read anyway.
Dear @LinkedIn, @Instagram, @Twitter and @Facebook, when suggesting hashtags could you please start ensuring the 1st letter of every word is capitalised? Example: #HashtagsForAll not #hashtagsforall— James Armstrong (@JJFArmstrong) April 25, 2019
It means your platforms will become more inclusive for the visually impaired...
2. Add image descriptions or ‘Alt Text’
We’re all guilty of forgetting this but it’s really worth spending time on. Not only will it help visually impaired people engage with your content (screen readers will explain what the photo is) but it’ll also help search engine optimisation too.
Alt text tells people and computers what an image is. If an image doesn’t load for whatever reason, alt text will display in its place. Search engines also index alt text information and consider it a factor when determining search engine ratings.
All of the big social media platforms allow you to do this. Here’s how:
If you’re not sure what to write check out this really useful blog ‘how to write alt text and image descriptions for the visually impaired’.
3. Add open or closed captions to your videos
Okay, first you need to know the difference between open and closed captions – open captions, or ‘burned-in’ captions, are a permanent feature of the video and can’t be turned off, so everyone sees the captions; closed captions give viewers the ability to turn captions on and off.
They’ve become more popular in recent years thanks to the way people watch videos in silent on their phones, but the main bonus of captions is that it makes your videos more accessible for the deaf and hearing impaired.
There’s a few ways to add captions. For open captions you’ll need to get your video editor to transcribe the video in their editing software. This is basically the only current option for Instagram.
For closed captions / subtitles here’s a few things you can do:
- Upload your video to YouTube, allow the platform the create automatic captions, then edit them to make sure they’re correct. Here’s how to add captions in YouTube. You can even then download them once they’re correct and use them in other places, for instance in Facebook (there’s a section for closed captions when editing a video and you can upload your SRT file there.)
- Upload your video to Facebook, if you already have the captions from YouTube you can upload them, if not you can write them directly in Facebook, here’s instructions from Facebook on how to do that.
- For Twitter you’ll need an SRT file, which is the type of file you download from YouTube or Facebook once you’ve created your closed captions. Once you have this you can upload to your video in Twitter’s Media Studio library. Details on doing this can be found in a Twitter blog.
There’s now even a way to add captions in Instagram Stories with Clipomatic.
4. Use emojis sparingly
Did you know that every emoji basically has alt text? So when a screen reader sees an emoji it’ll read out that text, for instance 😸 is translated as “Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes”; use it more than once and it’ll be repeated, that’s just annoying!
While emojis are great to tell universally understood visual stories and create interest you do need to think about using them sparingly for the sake of screen readers.
Remember that good communication should be simple too, so the more emojis you use the more complicated you might be making your message. Think about how easily your message can be understood in this fast paced social world!
So there you have it, just a few ways you can make your social media content more accessible for everyone.
Watch this space for our second blog about this, featuring the practices you need to think about to make your social media more inclusive.
If you’d like to discuss or get help with anything in this blog please get in touch.