Pocket guide for inclusive social media

Alex Chen
Alex Chen
Sep 3 · 4 min read
Graphic of rainbow, heart, accessibility, and brown raised fist icons on a pink background.
Graphic of rainbow, heart, accessibility, and brown raised fist icons on a pink background.

If you’re running social media for your organization, I highly encourage you to follow these best practices to make the internet a safer and more loving environment for marginalized folks.

Include accessibility info in your event description

Even if your event isn’t accessible, it’s important to note that upfront to avoid people showing up at your door, only to realize they can’t enter or go to certain parts of the space. Include the following:

  • Is the entrance wheelchair accessible? If not, how many steps?
  • Are the bathrooms wheelchair accessible? Are they gender binary or neutral? Single-stall or multi-stall?
  • Will there be any smoke, scents, or flashing lights?
  • Will there be any captions and/or ASL interpreters?
  • Will food be served and what kind? (to account for allergies & preferences)

♿️ disabled ppl need this

Write your hashtags in title case

This is a cool trick I learned on Twitter. Screen readers, which are assistive tech devices that many disabled people, especially blind folks, use to interact with the internet, have a hard time reading all lowercase hashtags. Use title case instead.

#canyoureadthis
This isn’t very legible.

#CANYOUREADTHIS
This isn’t very legible either (and frankly, it’s aggressive).

#CanYouReadThis
This is the best option.

♿️ disabled ppl need this

Include content warnings

If there’s sensitive material that might be triggering and/or set off strong negative emotions, include specific content warnings that people will encounter before they get to your actual content. This gives them the power to choose if they want to deal with it.

Definitely include warnings for the following, and include others as you see fit:

  • Violence, death
  • Sexual assault
  • Offensive/derogatory language
  • Misogyny, racism, transphobia, etc. (discrimination)

❣️ trauma survivors need this

Use correct pronouns (esp if you get called out)

There is no such thing as preferred pronouns. People have pronouns, and it’s important for you to use the correct ones. If you’re writing about someone, ask for their pronouns and use them. If you get it wrong and get called out, correct it (there’s no need for a fuss).

(Being a highly reputable news source does not exempt you from this rule, I’m looking at you NYTimes).

🌈 trans ppl need this

Include image descriptions

Image descriptions are necessary for blind people to experience images using a screen reader. Write a concise and descriptive summary that describes the essentials and add it to the alt text. If that’s not available, use the caption or comment feature instead.

If there are too many words in your image to transcribe, consider using a non-image format instead.

♿️ disabled ppl need this

Avoid flashing lights

Flashing lights (specifically flashing 3 times/second) are dangerous and sometimes cause seizures for people with epilepsy. Don’t use flashing lights in the videos, gifs, and animations you produce. Whatever effect you are trying to achieve, you can probably achieve in another way.

If you have to include flashing lights, e.g. in a concert video recording, include a content warning.

♿️ disabled ppl need this

-

Zine available for free download here. Tweet at me if you use it! @thetuttingtutor

Graphic of zine laid out on letter-sized paper, floating on top of pink background.
Graphic of zine laid out on letter-sized paper, floating on top of pink background.
The zine prints like this

Print it out, cut along the red line, and fold like so:

Diagram of how to fold a pocket zine: fold a letter-sized paper into 8 sections, cut down the middle, &fold down the middle.
Diagram of how to fold a pocket zine: fold a letter-sized paper into 8 sections, cut down the middle, &fold down the middle.
Diagram by tellatale.org.uk

I noted in each section that “x ppl need this,” and yes those people are the most oppressed and benefit the most from inclusive measures, but the reality is that these practices benefit everyone.

While most people in accessibility point to WCAG 2.1 (web content accessibility standards) for this kind of stuff, I want to point out that (1) it doesn’t include any gender or mental illness inclusive guidelines and (2) it’s easy for these standards to get outdated or miss small tips. For example, WCAG includes image descriptions and flashing lights, but not the hashtag. So I think it’s important to continuously document and share best practices. ☺

This guide is by no means comprehensive, but I think it captures a lot of the major issues that I notice just browsing through social media. If you have any suggestions for what to add to a part 2, let me know!

Alex Chen

Written by

Alex Chen

UX designer / martial artist / drag king / qtpoc / Chinese-American / they/them

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