How accessible is your social content?

Digital accessibility is important in all aspects of your organization. While many companies and businesses are taking the right steps to ensure that website content is accessible, there exists a potential issue with social content accessibility.

There’s really only so much you can do to make social content accessible, simply because you don’t own any of the networks. In other words, you’re limited to how accessible you can make your content by how accessible the individual network is. However, you are uploading your content to these networks, so it’s important that you are making every effort to ensure that social content is accessible to all audiences.

So what do you do? The most popular social networks all have levels of accessibility compliance, so let’s jump right in and help get you as socially accessible as possible.

Facebook

For many of us, it’s impossible to imagine Facebook without images. But for over a decade, that’s how visually-impaired people experienced the social network.

Not anymore.

In 2016, Facebook began automatically describing the content of photos through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Before, people who are visually impaired could only hear the name of the person who posted the photo as they scrolled past photos on Facebook. Now, if they’re using a screen reader, they’ll hear a richer description of the photo thanks to automatic alt text.

In order for the AI to have the best chance to recognize the content in your photos, taking high-quality images that show something is paramount. I’ve also noticed that the screen reader does not pick up text on an image, so if you’re building graphics and incorporating text (think Canva), you might want to consider delivering that content differently (ex. if it’s an upcoming event graphic, think about creating a Facebook event for it.) Or, ensure the main message contained in the graphic is available in the text portion of your post.

Another must for Facebook accessibility: captions on videos. It’s obvious why someone who is hearing-impaired relies on closed captioning. But what you might not be aware of is that nearly 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched with the sound down. So providing captions is really helping out your entire Facebook audience.

You can add captions to your video by either having Facebook automatically generate captions and edit them, or you can upload a SubRip (.srt) file by downloading it from your YouTube channel.

Facebook has a very helpful Accessibility Page that you can follow to stay up-to-date on the latest accessibility news for the social network.

Twitter

Twitter allows users to manually add alt text to images, allowing for greater accessibility. This feature is available on mobile and desktop.

To enable this feature, go to the Settings menu on your account, tap Display and Sound under General, then tap Accessibility and turn on Compose Image Descriptions. Then, when you upload your next image, you’ll notice an option to add a description in the bottom left corner of the image. It doesn’t appear that this can be executed through automation tools, but it goes a long way in helping to make Twitter more accessible for all users.

There isn’t a way to add captions to Twitter videos yet.

YouTube

YouTube uses speech recognition technology to automatically create captions for videos. These automatic captions are generated by machine learning algorithms, so the quality of the captions varies. Be sure you edit your captions in YouTube for any grammatical mistakes.

As populations become more diverse, YouTube has stayed ahead of the curve, offering automatic captions in multiple languages, including English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Instagram

Instagram is a photo-sharing network, so when users provide detailed-descriptions of what they’re sharing, it can serve as a built-in alt-text source.

Instagram also debuted a zoom feature a while back, so users who are having a difficult time seeing the image can zoom-in for a better look.

I am a little surprised Facebook, which owns Instagram, hasn’t incorporated AI to provide alt text to visually impaired users. It seems like if the technology exists, they might as well use it on all of their platforms.

So what can you do? Do your best to provide a little descriptive text in your caption for your images so users can get a better feel for the photo you just uploaded.

Snapchat

Snapchat isn’t a highly accessible platform, however it continues to grow in popularity with companies and organizations looking to reach younger audiences. USAGov has outlined recommendations to help ensure your Snapchat content is as accessible as possible. Some of this seems a little excessive, I’ll admit. As of now, this is the best guidance available on Snapchat accessibility. I imagine it will continue to advance as the network becomes even more mainstream.

If you’re taking the steps to ensure your website is accessible, you really need to be thinking about your social content. The world communicates on social media and everyone should have the ability to connect with your content.

Everyone.