Molly Watt
Apr 17, 2023

Simple steps can allow everyone to experience your content

Accessibility requirements for social media need to be understood and appreciated across all organisations, not just among content creators

Simple steps can allow everyone to experience your content

In today’s digital age, social media is a crucial platform for organisations across all industries to connect with their audiences.

And, while many do this successfully, some are falling short by adopting ‘fashionable’ but poor practices when creating their content.

Many organisations have abandoned their previous tone of voice and adopted an informal style of communication to appeal to a younger generation, which has often come at the cost of the needs of individuals with accessibility requirements.

One in five people experience some form of disability worldwide, and without adequate consideration, thoughtfully crafted posts are unintentionally inaccessible for a large portion of the population, and large sections of their intended audience.

To ensure that everyone, including those with accessibility needs, can access social media content, organisations must adopt a more inclusive approach to content creation.

As social media continues to be a leading channel for many organisations, it is vital that everyone in an organisation, not just social media content creators, understand accessibility requirements.

Contrast challenges for colour blindness

Worldwide, colour blindness impacts a proportion of people equal to the population of the US. There’s a long list of other visual impairments where colours can bleed and fade into each other.

Creating content to address this is easy. By simply increasing the colour contrast of text and images – making the background more distinctive and using block colours – you can make your animations and content accessible, standing out more even to those without visual impairments.

Which font?

The over-use of script-style fonts can make it needlessly difficult for people with dyslexia, low vision, or other vision impairments to read because they are not distinct from each other.

Using clearer and larger fonts in images, of at least 16 point or larger, also increases the inclusivity of infographics, according to the Government’s accessible communication formats guidance.

In a further attempt to be cool, edgy, and appealing, some organisations have adopted alternative typography and unique fonts.

These strange-looking letters don’t work well with assistive technologies. In fact, many are read as mathematical characters by a text-to-speech reader.

While this may seem "cute", this may read ‘Mathematical scripts small C, Mathematical scripts small U, Mathematical scripts small T, Mathematical scripts small E’ to an unsuspecting person scrolling social content with accessibility tools.

Memes that miss the mark

Similarly, before adopting meme formats and new viral trends, consider if a screen reader can make sense of them.

While these posts might seem funny and relatable with carefully structured strings of emojis, they are also unintelligible for many, defeating the very purpose of marketing.

This takes us to the broader problem of emojis. Being deaf/blind myself, I don’t see emojis like you do. While you see a fun little icon, a screen reader will read it out loud.

This isn’t a big deal, but having ‘crying laughing face’ or ‘hand clap’ read over and over and over at the end of a sentence isn’t fun. It’s crucial for brands to strike a balance and use emojis in moderation – two is plenty.

Embedding emojis throughout a post can also make it difficult for many to follow along. It’s best to avoid this practice altogether and use them strategically.

This also means making sure your call to action is before any emojis, as I’m likely going to scroll to the next post once I hear the fifth ‘laughing face’ being read.

Pictures or videos shouldn’t say a thousand words

Lastly, using alternative text is a quick and easy way to make social media images more accessible for individuals with low vision. Often, companies will misuse them, instead adding copyright and photography credits.

All that is required is a succinct description, which also has the added benefit of improving discoverability and search engine optimisation.

The same goes for video content. Using video captions will separate well-thought-out content from being a lip-reading challenge.

These captions should be well-contrasting, such as white text on a dark background, to ensure optimal legibility.

Although many social media platforms offer automatic captioning services, it’s important to double-check them as they can be inaccurate – a quick edit might be necessary. Don’t be lazy and fall at the final hurdle.

It can further increase engagement and reach by enabling people to watch videos in situations where they may not be able to use audio, such as on public transport.

Interestingly, the use of captions is increasingly popular among the younger generation, making it a win-win situation for all. Thus increasing views and engagement totals of your content.

Molly Watt is usability and accessibility consultant at Nexer Digital

Campaign UK

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