6 ways to make your social media posts accessible for people with a visual impairment

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment, so many people have said that that post has really helped them and that they’re going to now try and make their blog/website accessible which is amazing! I never expected to get such a brilliant response from that post.

Just like sighted people, blind and visually impaired people use social media as well. Social media is such a huge part of our lives now (you can decide whether that’s a good or bad thing), and so much content on there is visual which isn’t always the most accessible for blind and visually impaired people like myself. However, there are steps that you can take to make your social media posts accessible and inclusive for everyone, I thought I would share some of them with you.

1. Add photo descriptions

As I have previously said, social media is ever so visual, adding photo descriptions makes them accessible for everyone, including people with a visual impairment.

Just because we can’t see photos, it does not mean that we don’t want to interact with your posts.

Each social media app is unique, so there are various steps that you can take to add descriptions to images.

Facebook

For screen-reader users, Facebook uses artificial intelligence (AI) to describe photos to blind and visually impaired people. For example, it may say “2 people, smiling, dog, grass and nature”, or “1 person, smiling, food and drink”.

These are not always accurate though, but it’s a very good start.

One way you can add photo descriptions on Facebook is by adding photo descriptions to captions. You can write what you would normally say, then underneath write something like “photo description…” or “this photo shows…”. Just like alt text, blind and visually impaired people can then picture the image.

Instagram

People with no or very little useful vision rely on captions on Instagram to know what the photo shows. If the caption doesn’t give a brief overview of what the picture shows, then we have no clue whatsoever. In the same way as Facebook, you can add photo descriptions on Instagram in the main post or as a comment underneath.

Twitter

Twitter was the first social media platform to implement photo descriptions. A setting can easily be enabled which allows you to write a description of the image, descriptions must be 420 characters or less though. When a screen-reader detects an image description, it will read it out loud.

It is a brilliant feature, but as it is not automatically enabled, it doesn’t cross sighted people’s minds to add descriptions to photos that they tweet and isn’t widely used which is such a shame.

Find out more about the feature and how to enable it here.

Twitter’s image description feature can be enabled on all of the popular operating systems. For people that like to schedule tweets, the feature is also part of popular scheduling apps such as buffer.

Screenshot of the app buffer

As a screen-reader user myself, I am more likely to interact with posts that have image descriptions than those that do not, as I have a clear understanding of what the photo shows.Picture of a MacBook

2. Transcribe memes and gifs

If you’re not sure what a meme or “GIF” is then I’ll give a quick overview. A meme is an image, with text overlaid, they’re often humorous. Gifs are a small clip of video that auto-loops, they can also contain several images.

Gifs are so popular that social media platforms have a gifs option built into them.

However, memes and gifs are not accessible for people with a visual impairment, granted, people with some useful vision may be able to see them, but they are completely inaccessible to screen-reader users as screen-readers just view them as images.

To make memes and gifs accessible, add a description of them in the body of the post, such as ‘this meme shows’ or ‘this gif shows.

3. Use capital letters at the start of each word of a hashtag

Using capital letters at the start of each word within a hashtag means that screen-readers pronounce it correctly and it is also easier for people with some useful vision to read. If you don’t do this, then screen-readers do not read it properly, instead, it sounds very jumbled up. It is such a simple thing to do yet the majority of people don’t do this. Granted, many people do not realise that they can really help by doing this, or just don’t think about it which is absolutely fine.

4. Always use inclusive language

This isn’t just in regards to social media, please always consider this. Using inclusive language means that you are being respectful and not reinforcing common stereotypes and misconceptions.

Picture of a MacBook

5. Don’t overuse emojis in a post

Screen-readers translate emojis literally, meaning that they read out every emoji that is in every tweet or post for example, this can be very frustrating for screen-reader users like myself and it may cause us to scroll past the post. They can also be very hard to read if they are used too much.

Before you post something that contains a large amount of emojis, think about it for a minute: do you really need to use that many? The answer is often no.

6. Post various types of content on stories

Stories on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are very popular at the minute, however it’s important to post a wide range of content on these if you want your story to be accessible to everyone. Screen-readers will not read text or images on stories and they can often be hard for people with some useful vision to see, why not post videos and have a chat with your followers as well so that everyone can interact with some of your content on stories? Remember to add a transcription of the video if you can so that people with hearing impairments or other disabilities aren’t excluded from this sort of content.

picture of an iPhone

Those are some of the ways in which you can make your social media posts more accessible for people with a visual impairment.

Do you have any other tips to share? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

Holly x

21 Comments

  1. November 1, 2018 / 8:41 pm

    Wow, this was so interesting Holly! I was literally just trying to make sure my alt text on the images on my last blog post would be helpful, and it totally didn’t occur to me about social media! It was so interesting to learn about the importance of capitalising your hashtag and not going wild with emojis too – I had no idea!
    Thank you for sharing, I’ll take this on board!

    Rhianna x
    http://www.tsundokugirl.com

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 2, 2018 / 12:03 am

      I’m so glad you found it both interesting and useful! Thank you so much x

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 11:12 am

      Thank you so much, I’m really glad you found it interesting 🙂

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 10:27 pm

      Thank you, no problem ☺️

  2. November 4, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    These are some really great tips! Honestly I never even knew the image description option was avaliable on Twitter! Thanks so much for pointing some of these out!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 10:28 pm

      Thank you so much, no problem at all ☺️

  3. November 5, 2018 / 9:11 am

    Such a helpful post, sure it will encourage lots of people to start thinking of making their social media’s accessible. Great read as always lovely xxx

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 5, 2018 / 11:44 pm

      Thank you so much lovely xxx

  4. Danni
    November 8, 2018 / 3:16 am

    Thank you for this! I am visually impaired too and always trying to explain this stuff to people.
    A few things I’d add:
    – Not everyone uses the Facebook app, and the browser version (as far as I’m aware) doesn’t have any kind of automatic description. Because of this, and because the automatic descriptions are often so inaccurate even when they are available, people should ALWAYS be in the habit of generating their own accurate image descriptions. (I only use Facebook in my browser, so I have NO idea what kind of features the app version has, so even if they are very accurate, they are useless to someone like me!)
    – Not everyone uses a screen reader, some of us with some/limited vision ARE relying on our vision to access content and do need things to be more easily visible rather than more screen-reader-friendly. One example of this is emojis, some screen readers do describe those automatically, but as someone who’s not using a screen reader, emojis are more accessible to me if there’s a typed description next to them.
    – The colored backgrounds on Facebook are the WORST. There’s NO way I can tell that makes those accessible to me, even if people type a text-only version of the post into the first comment on the post I won’t always see it because it gets folded into the thread and I don’t know it’s there.

    Thank you again for this excellent and important post!!!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 8, 2018 / 12:13 pm

      Thank you! Some great tips, thank you for sharing

  5. November 8, 2018 / 8:55 am

    I hadn’t thought of using descriptions in my social media photos and will definitely do this from now on! I always capitalise my plural worded hashtags because I’m a pedant and remember the furore the SusansAlbumParty caused because it looked like SusAnalBumParty!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 8, 2018 / 12:14 pm

      That’s great thank you. Haha oh dear!

  6. November 8, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    Thank you for posting this useful information Holly!!

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 9, 2018 / 12:01 am

      No problem, really glad you found it useful 🙂

  7. November 19, 2018 / 12:46 am

    Thank you for all the tips about making social media posts accessible. It’s one of those issues I’m very interested in. I was active in asking Buffer to add alternative text to images for their services and beta tested their app before it went live.

    It wasn’t well publicized, but earlier this year Facebook added the ability to override their artificial intelligence created alternative text for images. Every one who publishes images to Facebook can add alternative text for each of their images. I published a post on how to do it last summer. I’m not sure if you strip links in your comments, but here’s the post: https://www.lireo.com/how-to-add-alternative-text-to-facebook-photos/

    In addition, Hootsuite announced in late October 2018 they now offer alternative text for images for Twitter. Only available on the web, via their “New Post” feature. Here’s how you can add alternative text for images on Twitter in Hootsuite. https://www.lireo.com/part-4-alternative-text-for-images-hootsuite-announces-support/

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      November 19, 2018 / 11:22 pm

      Thank you! Thank you for these links, they’re really useful

  8. November 19, 2018 / 11:05 am

    This is amazingly helpful, thank you! I too had no idea abouth this aspect of social media. I will now be doing all I can to help. Is there anything we can do on blog posts to help you?
    thank you so much for sharing
    Best wishes
    Ashey x

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