Hey there, Miami students! Recently I had the opportunity to write a blog post about accessibility in marketing strategy for my soon-to-be full-time job. It really got me thinking about how equally important it is to build accessibility into social media as well. So, today I am opening the conversation about centering accessibility in your social media posts.

Outside of design, accessibility is usually an afterthought. Any content that excludes people with disabilities, even subconsciously, leaves a huge portion of the population out of the mix. To truly center inclusivity and make yourself reachable, accessibility needs to be a priority when developing social media posts. 

What is Accessibility?

The core concept of accessibility answers this question: can your product/service be used by everyone? It takes into consideration how people of different abilities will encounter your content. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it benefits all people who seek a connection with you and how you express yourself online. Consider the amount and vastly different types of accessibility issues people may have that act as a barrier:

  • Visual (low vision, color blindness, etc.)
  • Auditory (hearing difficulty, deafness, etc.)
  • Mobility/motor (wheelchair user challenges)
  • Cognitive (dyslexia, attention deficit, autism, etc.)

Is this really that important?

Yes! According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 4 people in the United States have some kind of disability. These can take many forms and pose individual challenges for each person. Without the voices of people with different experiences and knowledge, true compassion and diversity of thought are impossible. 

Ways You Can Incorporate Accessibility Into What You Post 

It may seem demanding to account for these challenges. Actually, it is much easier than you think. Here are 5 things you can start doing to to create a more inclusive environment in your social media space:

  1. Include image descriptions. By doing this, people using screen readers will be able to understand what your picture or graphic says.
  2. Ensure that video content has open/closed captioning. Including open or closed captioning is essential for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Open captioning is becoming more popular since it allows users to play videos on silent!
  3. Keep hashtags in sentence case. All caps or all lowercase hashtags might seem cool, but #WritingYourHashtagsLikeThis makes it easier for all users to differentiate words AND helps automated screen readers to read the hashtag for those with visual or reading disabilities.
  4. Keep the emojis to one at a time. Screen readers literally read emojis out loud – so having 4 different emojis in a row will read as “Red heart. Sparkle. Dancing woman. Nail polish hand.” You get the picture!
  5. Avoid ableist language, and remember that disability representation matters. Words have history and meaning behind them. What might seem harmless or insignificant to you may have a painful history for others. This is about respecting people and communities with disabilities, visible or invisible. “I stand with you” could just as easily become “I support you”. Start to unlearn saying “crazy” or “insane” and be more specific in your language – what is the actual feeling you’re addressing? Using inclusive language can be challenging to get used to, but not at all difficult to do.

Social Accessibility Should be the Standard

Recognizing and removing barriers opens an incredible opportunity to better serve a diverse audience. Step one is to stop solving problems solely based on our own experiences and biases. Moving through the world while keeping the effect of your words/actions in mind will always drive empathy, and inevitably growth. And what is the college experience if not one of the best times to develop a more empathetic, conscious self?

Kathryn Moir | Marketing & IMS