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.
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.
People with no or very little useful vision used to rely on captions on Instagram to know what the photo shows. If the caption didn’t give a brief overview of what the picture showed, then we had no clue whatsoever.
However, Instagram introduced a similar feature to Facebook where it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tell screen-reader users exactly what’s in the photo. This is a brilliant step forward but it still has a long way to go. Instagram also introduced an alt text feature where users can add descriptions to images that they post, like you would add alt text to images on your website.
Before pressing ‘share’ and uploading your Instagram post, press on ‘advance settings’, there is then an option to add alt text to your image. Adding alt text to your posts gives a person with a visual impairment a good idea of what the photo shows, and it also is a way of making social media accessible and inclusive.
You can find out more about the feature in this article.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tsundoku Girl says
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!
I’m so glad you found it both interesting and useful! Thank you so much x
Tsundoku Girl says
Thank you right back!! X
This is such an interesting and useful post! I never thought about this until now but thank-you. I’ll take this on board now. Never thought to use capitals on hashtags.
Gemma | https://anoceanglimmer.wordpress.com/
Thank you so much, I’m really glad you found it interesting 🙂
Kasey @ The Story Sanctuary says
Super helpful! Thank you. 🙂
Thank you, no problem ☺️
Kristin Harris/Tales From Home says
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!
Thank you so much, no problem at all ☺️
My Blurred World says
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
Thank you so much lovely xxx
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!!!
Thank you! Some great tips, thank you for sharing
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!
That’s great thank you. Haha oh dear!
Thank you for posting this useful information Holly!!
No problem, really glad you found it useful 🙂
Deborah Edwards-Onoro says
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/
Thank you! Thank you for these links, they’re really useful
Lazy Daisy Jones says
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
Thank you so much! I wrote a blog post on making blogs accessible if it’s any help? X https://lifeofablindgirl.com/2018/09/19/10-ways-to-make-your-blog-accessible-for-people-with-a-visual-impairment/
This post is so helpful, thank you!
I’ve been wondering how to make my content more accessible and your helpful tips have made it a lot easier for me to understand how to do this.
Thank you, so glad you found it helpful! Thank you for making your posts accessible, it’s really appreciated x
Silvia Cassano says
I tried to comb through the comments, but I often wonder about organizations that rely strongly on a poster or social media image they made in Canva or similar to convey their message. They do not always provide entire text to describe the image, but hopefully have a “to learn more” link. I have shared this! Thanks!
Yes that’s a common problem. Thank you for sharing
RJ Lyn says
Hi Holly! Happy New Year! This post is very informative and really full of insights. Thanks for sharing this one and I will most definitely use capital letters at the start of each hashtag.
Thank you, really glad you found it helpful. Happy New Year to you too!
Hi there! I’m a little late at joining the fun party on your blog, but Happy New Year to you! I run a business Instagram page targeting parents of students with disabilities. In an effort to be more inclusive, I recently began adding image descriptions into my captions. I had no idea about the alt text option in the advanced settings area, so thanks for sharing that. I think the toughest part for me is that I’m new to the platform + I’m new to adding descriptions for images. I’ve had a hard time finding help, but do you know if there are apps to assist in converting the images into text? I’ve found so many other apps, that’ll describe a portion of image, but mostly just picking up on the text on the image – not the image itself. For instance, if I have a picture of a solid red background with a green tree placed in the center and text over the tree, the apps I’ve come across thus far, will only read off the text on the tree, but won’t describe the red background or the tree. I want to be inclusive so want the audience to know that the background is red and there’s a tree added in image. Am I over-thinking this all? Do you have any other suggestions? I find myself spending an incredible amount of time trying to describe the image, mostly because Instagram is such a visual platform and I’m not too sure what can’t be ‘seen’ on a screen-reader or any AT device. Thanks for any pointers!
Amazing, thank you. Sounds like you are doing a great job!
There are no apps for this specifically unfortunately. One thing that people often find helpful when writing image descriptions is to think about how you would describe it verbally. If you think about how you would describe it to a friend or over the phone to someone for example, it often helps you to come up with the image description. If you are giving an accurate description of the image then that is always extremely helpful to screen reader users and you are writing brilliant descriptions.
Hope that helps!
becky desantis says
Holly, I just came across your blog and I hope you can help me. I have a friend who speaks her posts due to macular degeneration. She is asking me to help her edit/ delete erroneous posts on Facebook and I am unable to find any answers for her. Can you advise? Thank you so much.
I’d recommend asking your friend which technology she uses such as Apple, Android etc, and go from there. There are many resources and instructions on doing this sort of thing with screen readers and other assistive technology.
Eileen G says
I forgot to add that fond this information useful and can be used for more awareness building. Would it be ok to use your write up to bring this to others in my volunteer organisation, why we have a day set aside on September 12, to find ways we can help bring the right message across to educate persons on how they can assist everyday living to persons with disability. KIWANIS DISABILITY DAY ON SEPTEMBER 12.
love if you can approve my sharing and any other useful tips you may have. God bless.
Thank you. I’d be more than happy for you to share the link to this post with your organisation
David Parker says
This is so useful, I’m just starting out and trying to use Instagram as my main tool for drawing people in but my head was a jumble of tips. Thank you for this concise list I can follow and make I stay on the right path!
Thank you – so glad it’s helpful!
Thank you! I was searching for information on accommodating folks with visual impairment to make my FB groups more accessible. This told me what I really needed to know!
I’ll be sure to pass it along to friends and family too!
Thanks for sharing your insights and tips, this is really helpful to me as I am about to launch a social platform at my workplace, I will be sure to incorporate your advice to make things as accessible as possible 🙂
Thanks so much! Best of luck!