Social Media Accessibility Guidelines

Purpose

These guidelines are intended to help University staff, faculty, and students create social media content that is accessible to people with disabilities. Since, in many cases, there are limitations to the accessibility of a platform, you should check its associated documentation to determine which of its features support accessibility. 

Guidelines

When social media content is broadly used by the University’s students, employees and/or the public to carry out or participate in its core educational and administrative activities, all available accessibility supported features of the platform should be utilized. These guidelines are not applicable when reposting or sharing content that is published by students, employees, non-university organizations, or external sources that do not conduct core University-related activities.

For a more detailed exploration of these topics via a tutorial, refer to the work at exploreacess.org via their Social Media Accessibility Toolkit.

Alternative Text Descriptions for Images

When social media platforms or aggregation tools such as HootSuite allow for alternative text descriptions on images, you should provide them. For best practices on authoring alternative text descriptions, refer to the alternative text description section of the 11 Key Accessibility Factors reference material. Such text descriptions of images will be read aloud to non-sighted or low-sighted users who rely on screen readers to consume social media content. 

Captioning of Videos

For video content, you should provide captions of the audio for the benefit of those without hearing, who are hard-of-hearing, and who are non-native speakers. Captions can be either closed captions (where a user can turn them on and off) or open captions (where the text is embedded into the video and cannot be turned on or off). 

Refer to the Video Accessibility Guidelines for more information. Check the social media platform’s accessibility support features to determine which captioning type (closed or open) must be employed for captions to appear when a video plays. 

Context for Animated GIFs

At this time, the animated GIF format has either very limited or no accessibility support on most social media platforms. This makes the animated GIF content difficult for individuals who rely on screen readers to perceive. Therefore, you should not rely solely on animated GIF content in a social media post. When using animated GIFs, confirm that the post can be understood through its text content alone. 

CamelCase Hashtags

Hashtags are an important component of social media posts. When authoring hashtags that are made up of multiple words, use initial capitalization, also known as CamelCase. Utilizing this simple technique makes the hashtag easier to read for all users and is more consumable by screen readers since their synthesized voices can recognize and pronounce individual words, and won’t concatenate and garble them. 

Emojis and Emoticons

Emojis displayed on a screen will be described by a screen reader. The 👏 emoji, for example, will be read aloud as “clapping hands.” Please be  considerate of screen reader users by using emojis judiciously and by placing spaces between them. 

When creating emoticons with text, consider the experience for screen reader users. In this example, this visual experience of “shruggie” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ will be read aloud by a screen reader as: 

“Macron, backslash, underline, katakana, underline, slash, macron.”

Use both of these conventions sparingly. For examples of screen readers audibly describing emojis and emoticons, refer to Adrian Roselli’s article on Improving Your Tweet Accessibility where he captures the synthesized speech output of these components in social media posts. 

Accessibility Documentation by Platform

Related Policies and Guidelines