Disability Pride Month – three tips to improve your social media accessibility

Hazel Woodward offers three easy changes you can make to improve the accessibility of your dental practice's social media for people living with disabilities

Hazel Woodward offers three easy changes you can make to improve the accessibility of your dental practice’s social media for people living with disabilities. 

Social media use shows no sign of slowing down. As a result, the importance of accessibility online is more important than ever.

In this article I outline what accessibility is and why you should implement it into your dental practice’s social media strategy.

Additionally, I break down some quick and easy ways to make your posts more accessible. Let’s dive in!

What is accessibility and why is it important?

Accessibility refers to the practice of making products, services, or environments available to as many people as possible. Especially for those with disabilities.

On social media, this means that someone with a disability should be able to ‘access’ your content as effectively as someone without a disability. Accessibility online is especially intended to help people who rely on assistive technologies to use social media.

This may include those who are blind or visually impaired, people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and people with dyslexia or cognitive learning disabilities. Making small adjustments to your content can mean a world of difference to someone who is using a screen-reader or another assistive technology to browse social media.

Becoming more accessible is a sign of respect to people with disabilities. It also ensures that all people are able to share and interact with your content.

1. Make text accessible

Before you publish your post, pause for a quick moment to think about how a screen reader might interpret your text.

Here are some tips for text:

  • Write in plain language: avoid jargon, slang, or technical terms unless they are appropriate
  • Don’t overuse caps: full-caps can be difficult to read and misinterpreted by screen readers.
  • Use camel case for multi-word hashtags: capitalise the first letter of each word to make hashtags more legible and prevent screen reader gaffs, eg #dentalpractice #toothwhitening
  • Put hashtags and mentions at the end: punctuation marks are read aloud by screen readers. Be mindful of how hashtags or @ mentions can disrupt copy
  • Avoid saying ‘click here’: use descriptive call-to-actions, such as, ‘sign up’, ‘try it for free’, or ‘subscribe’
  • Limit emoji use: emoji and emoticons (ie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) are read aloud by assistive tech. That means people will hear things like ‘loudly crying face’ or ‘pile of poo’. It’s best to limit emoji usage to three or less, and try to place emojis toward the end of your posts so they do not interrupt other information in the text
  • Insider text: if you want to know what people with screen readers will hear for certain emojis, search it on emojipedia.com
  • Use an adequate font size: make sure text is legible, especially when used in images or areas that aren’t modifiable
  • Avoid special characters: in addition to reduced legibility, VoiceOver and other assistive tools read special formatting very differently. This is especially important for those websites that provide alternative fonts for social media. They can be difficult to read and often misinterpreted by screen readers.

2. 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.

Several social media platforms use object recognition technology to provide automatic alternative text. Obviously, there are limits to its reliability. It’s always better to add a custom description when you can.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin provide specific fields for you to add alt-text for images and GIFs. When it’s not possible to add alt-text, include descriptive captions.

Tips for writing descriptive alt-text:

  • Convey the content: there’s a huge gap between, ‘image of a chart’, and something like, ‘a bar chart illustrates that there has been a year-over-year increase in forest fires, peaking at 100 this year’
  • Mention colour: if it is important to understanding the image
  • Share humour: descriptive text doesn’t have to be overly formal and should do its best to express what’s funny
  • Transcribe text: if the image has copy that is central to its meaning, make sure you include it in the description, eg ‘patient testimonials’.

Please note that including Alt Tags is not an ‘algorithm hack’. Whilst it does allow the algorithm to interpret the content more easily, the tags should always represent the image, and never be used to refer to something else.

3. Include video captions

There are two types of video caption: open and closed. Open are visible regardless of the viewers preferences and often added in post production. Closed are determined by the viewer who can choose to toggle them on and off.

For people with hearing loss, closed captioning is essential to their understanding of videos.

They are not to be confused with subtitles, which provide text for the dialogue in a video. Closed captioning includes both spoken words and other relevant sounds, such as background music and audio cues like doorbells, loud crashes, or phones ringing.

Closed captioning is also helpful for viewers whose native language is different from the one used in the video. The on-screen text makes it easier for them to follow along if they aren’t fully confident in their language proficiency.

Furthermore, 85% of videos on Facebook are played without sound. So, even those without hearing loss appreciate closed captioning.

Thankfully, almost all social media platforms automatically add closed captions to uploaded video. However, they are not always perfect and can misinterpret the audio, swapping in alternative words which can confuse the viewer.

There are many great apps which can add in captions on your videos. I recommend:

  • Mixcaptions
  • Amara
  • Zubtitle
  • Kapwing
  • video
  • Quicc.

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