With Instagram’s latest addition to video uploads offering the option of auto captions, a larger question about the overall accessibility of social media begs to be asked.
Improving accessibility in the physical world is an ongoing mission that seeks to bring resources easily accessed by able-bodied people to those with different or special needs. This traditionally includes offering lifts next to staircases, braille on signage and pedestrian pushbutton tickers at intersections. It makes sense, then, that this should also extend to the virtual world, in which so much of modern life takes place. To reflect this, many of the social media platforms have been (albeit slowly) introducing features aimed at increasing accessibility of their tools and features.
Recent examples include:
– ‘Alt Text’: Instagram introduced ‘alt-text’ to its platform in 2018, which allows screen reading software to automatically describe photos and imagery out loud to visually-impaired users. While users can manually add the descriptions through the advanced settings of their posts, Instagram also uses its Object Recognition capabilities to automatically generate descriptions for images without, so that even more content can be enjoyed by those visually-impaired.
– Google search results: Google ranks accessible web pages higher in its results, proving inclusive design principles are increasingly a priority for web designers.
– Navigating Twitter: An app called Twitterific uses voice recognition to navigate the Twitter timeline, compose tweets and attach image descriptions.
So why should you and your business invest time and effort into making sure your user interfaces are accessible and inclusive? Well, you want as many people as possible to purchase and benefit from your product or service, no? That means ensuring anyone who falls into your target audience –including those who may have special needs or have extra accessibility requirements– can easily access your site, enjoy your content and importantly, purchase from your business. A social media strategy without inclusive design considerations misses out on connecting with an even larger audience, so it’s important to recognise exclusion when it happens, open a dialogue with your audience and present your information as clearly as possible (which really just comes down to managing your socials effectively anyway).
Additionally, levelling the playing field and allowing people with special or different needs to express themselves as freely as those who are able-bodied can and do is crucial to making them feel included and appreciated. Letting their voices be heard allows for a diverse range of experiences to be considered, both online and off.
For some additional ways of ensuring your online presence is as accessible as possible, we recommend:
– Adding alternative text to your images (this can also apply to LinkedIn!). It’s not necessary to say “image of” –just the description works best.
– Adding captions to video and IGTV content (and stories if needed as well!)
– Adding a descriptive transcript for videos. This does not contain the dialogue, rather, it denotes the important sights, sounds and actions that are not spoken. E.g. Adding “a man enters the room”
– Use #CamelCase for hashtags for easier readability
– Ensure enough contrast between text and background for creative content
– Embrace feedback!
At the heart of it, inclusive design considers a host of diversity factors, such as ability, language, gender, age, and more so that more people can engage and connect in a way that’s best for them.