In the age where almost everyone has access to a smartphone and social media, it can sometimes be easy to forget that everyone doesn’t consume their social media the same way. Here are some tips that will help your blind, deaf and hard-of-hearing access your posts more easily.
Add alt-titles or image descriptions to the photos you post on social media. Many people use the voice-over option for accessibility on their phones. Images with alt-title (image description) will have the description of the photo read aloud when using this feature. This allows those that are visually impaired to understand what your photo depicts.
To learn how to add alt tags to Instagram, click here.
To learn how to add alt tags to Facebook, click here.
To learn how to add alt tags to Twitter, click here.
You can also add your alt-text directly to the text of your post. So if you posted a picture of by a waterfall during a hike, your caption might look like: “Today I hiked 15 miles in Zion National Park. Had to stop and take a picture at his gorgeous waterfall. So refreshing to be in nature. [ALT TEXT: Picture of Instagram user @yourusername smiling at a waterfall in Zion National Park.]
If you use text directly on your image, make sure the text of the image is explained in your alt-titles.
Capitalize each word in a hashtag. When you use all lower case words in a hashtag, a screen reader will recognize it as one long word. So if you use “#flashbackfriday” the screen reader will quickly read it as one word. When you’re using less recognizable, or more unique, hashtags this can create some confusion. Make sure you capitalize each word in the hashtag. So it should read “#FlashbackFriday.”
Don’t overuse emojis. Screen readers read out emojis literally. So if you’re using them in a way that’s ironic or you’re using too many emojis, it can be confusing and disrupt the flow of speech.
Add captioning to videos you post. For those that are hard-of-hearing or deaf, if there are no captions on videos then it can be very difficult to understand videos. You can add captions to videos using a couple of methods. You can add them during the video editing process (called open captions - meaning you can’t turn them off) or you can transcribe the video and upload captions after the fact (called closed captions - meaning they can be turned on or off). If you’re going to write captions for your videos, make sure to follow best practices. This includes captioning sounds and on-screen actions that are not spoken that would be missed if you couldn’t hear them. Check out this article on some tips for writing captions. Here’s another great article on audio description.
To learn how to add captions to YouTube videos, click here.
To learn how to add captions to Facebook videos, click here. [Note: Facebook doesn’t have real time caption editing like YouTube. You will have to upload an SRT File. SubRip Subtitle files (SRT) are plain-text files that contain subtitle information. To learn how to create an SRT file, click here.]
Twitter requires open-captioned videos.
When using captioning, make sure the color contrast between between caption text and background is strong. The default is a black background with white text. This is a good combo, though some people prefer different colors. Make sure you listen to audience feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask your followers what they prefer.
Use an ASL translator when you can. If you have the budget, using an ASL translator in your videos can help your deaf and hard-of-hearing followers. ASL (American Sign Language) is the first language for the deaf in America and is a different language than signed English, which is usually a direct interpretation of spoken English. If you are able to use a translator, make sure that the mouth and hands of the translator are visible at all times during the video. There shouldn’t be any cutaways from the translator or shots of only their hands.
On Twitter, describe the type of post at the beginning of your tweet. Use text like [PIC], [AUDIO], [VIDEO], [ARTICLE], etc.so screen readers can tell your followers what to expect before it’s read out loud.