Fortunately, we live in an era when it is no longer acceptable to overlook and ignore our social responsibilities when it comes to diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Social media plays an increasingly large role in our everyday lives, so it’s important to ensure that people with disabilities, who use social media and other digital communication platforms, have access to accessible content and can participate fully on social media platforms. Inclusive social media increases accessibility and caters for a diverse range of users by addressing barriers and providing a variety of ways for people to engage. Without accessibility, you also miss out on connecting with your full potential audience.
A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works, but we can make our social media presence and output more accessible to all. This is essential if you run a business. Why? Because at least 1 billion people – 15% of the world’s population –experience some form of disability. While social media accessibility isn’t legally required under Web Content and Accessibility Guideline’s 2.1 compliance standards, it shouldn’t need to be – inclusive social media marketing equals good social media marketing.
Regarding neurodiversity, 1 in 10 people is dyslexia, 1 in 28 is autistic and 1 in 20 has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), though the figures differ for those diagnosed. Colour blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. Globally,at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment and over 1.5 billion people globally suffer from hearing impairments, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
So how can we be a good ally when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion and who is responsible for making content accessible? We all are, and here’s how:
- Avoid justifying text as this creates uneven spaces between words and letters and generates more white space, which can be distracting for dyslexic people and those with visual stress. Instead, make sure your text is aligned to the left-hand side.
- Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial, Comics Sans, Century Gothic, Verdana and Tahoma. These fonts are plain and evenly spaced, causing less distraction.
- Use larger font sizes of 12 to 14 to help readability. Size 14 is preferred for printed materials for dyslexic readers. Also, ensuring you offer larger text sizes on your website is important, especially for people with visual impairments.
- Consider paragraph arrangement. Make sure paragraphs are concise as this is easier on the eye than seeing large blocks of text. Line spacing of 1.5 is preferred, making the text evenly spaced. Use simple, direct and to-the-point sentences.
- Bear in mind the contrast of visuals – too little makes it very hard to distinguish for those with dyslexia, colour blindness or learning difficulties. Try to avoid colours such as green and red in your content as these colours cause difficulty for people who are colour blind. Backgrounds, such as off-white, blue or purple, can help dyslexic readers focus on the text better, as a stark white can be disorientating, making the text harder to read.
- Add pictures and infographics to support and break up the text.
- Avoid capitals, italics and underlined words when emphasising text, as this makes letters harder to read. Using bold font is preferable because it looks clearer and gives letters and words more contrast.
- Don’t overuse capital letters. Full-caps can be difficult to read and misinterpreted by screen readers. However, capitalise the first letter of each word to make hashtags more legible and prevent screen reader errors.
- Put hashtags and mentions at the end of text and captions. Screen readers read punctuation marks aloud, so be mindful of how hashtags or @ mentions disrupt the text.
- Avoid special characters. As well as reduced legibility, VoiceOver and other assistive tools read special formatting differently.
- Provide descriptive image captions. Descriptive captions and alternative text (also known as alt-text) allow people to visualise images when they can’t see them. Absent or ineffective alt-text is the most problematic part of web accessibility. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn provide specific fields for you to add alt-text for images. When it’s not possible to add alt-text, include descriptive captions instead.
- Include closed captions. Closed captions are crucial for viewers with hearing impairments. They also enhance the viewing experience for people watching in their non-native language or those who struggle to process information aurally (by ear).
- Add video descriptions. Unlike captions, which are a transcription of spoken dialogue, described video is the narrated description of any important non-verbal elements in your video.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start in the right direction. Ultimately, it is about being aware of your audience and being prepared with all the tools to engage and cater for it effectively. This will help you craft messaging that works well for everyone and will result in an overall positive experience on social media, regardless of how a person wants or needs to access it.
Now, more than ever, businesses are embracing their social responsibilities to create more thoughtful, mindful and inclusive content that represents the inclusivity of their brands. The most successful brands on social media are the ones that are authentic, transparent and open to feedback, while also challenging users to think critically about their own actions, words and output.
For more help and guidance on creating inclusive and accessible social media content, check out these resources below.
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- Facebook Accessibility Page
- Facebook Accessibility Help Center
- Submit Facebook Accessibility and Assistive Technology feedback
- Twitter Accessibility account
- Twitter Able account
- Twitter Together account
- Twitter Safety account
- Share feedback on accessibility and other issues
- YouTube accessibility settings
- Using YouTube with a screen reader
- YouTube support