Northwoods Forest

Social Media and Accessibility

Sydney ShimkoSydney Shimko/Front End Developer
February 07, 20193 min read

Roughly 20 percent of people in the United States have a disability. Some of them are your customers.

Your users might be visually impaired, have a speech, auditory, or physical disability or have a cognitive, learning, or neurological disorder. Perhaps they use assistive technology to access the Internet. Approximately 77 percent of these individuals with disabilities use the internet, including social media, to engage with companies and brands.

And yet, social media content is rarely optimized for accessibility.

Why Is Social Media Accessibility Important?

People with disabilities not only use social media, some create robust digital communities. Blogs, podcasts, and social networks help all people, including those with disabilities, find connections while:

  • sharing information
  • networking for business
  • searching for employment
  • gaining knowledge
  • following current events
  • finding entertainment
  • researching products

The most widely used social media platforms have made it easier for individuals with disabilities to access their sites. We must take advantage of the features they offer. Improving the accessibility of your social channels can positively impact brand reputation and customer satisfaction. Read on for tips to help you succeed.

Social Media Accessibility Guidelines

Be aggressive in your effort to make your social media content accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Actively keep up with and leverage new accessibility features in the various platforms.
  • Continually test your content for ease of access.
  • Include a Social Media Policy in your Organizational Policies on Web Accessibility.
  • List direct contact information on your social media account pages (phone, email, website).
  • Provide content on multiple channels. For example, include a social feed widget on your website or email a digest of social media posts. In addition to improving accessibility, this gives users multiple ways to interact with your brand.

Social Media Posting Tips for Accessibility

  • Use clear, concise language, limit use of hashtags, abbreviations, etc. Follow the Federal Plain Language Guidelines.
  • Start your posts with the primary message and place hashtags, etc., at the end.
  • Ensure that any links you post are accessible. Describe any issues for the user, such as “this video does not include captioning.”

Images and Video in Social Posts

Consider the billions of photos shared across social media news feeds every day. Posts with images and video attract more engagement than posts without. Accessibility of non-text content, such as photo and video, is fundamental to digital accessibility (WCAG success criterion 1.1.1). Facebook and Instagram use artificial intelligence (AI) to auto-generate alternative text to describe recognizable objects in photos. You should:

  • Provide meaningful alternative descriptive text for all images. Descriptions should be specific, easy to understand and succinct.
  • Offer transcripts, captions and descriptions for audio and videos posted to your page or profile.

Tips For Specific Social Media Channels

Facebook Accessibility

Facebook offers detailed articles for help with accessibility for visually impaired or otherwise disabled users.

Twitter Accessibility

  • If your tweet includes a photo, video or audio file, use [PIC], [VIDEO], or [AUDIO] as a first indication of the content.
  • Use Twitter’s image description feature to caption photos.
  • Link back to the website or other photo source for a more complete description.
  • Use tools such as VoiceOver for iPhone to listen to your tweet and test it for clarity before you send.
  • Twitter provides keyboard shortcuts. Access it by hitting the ? on your keyboard.

Twitter Keyboard Shortcuts

Snapchat To Video

  • You can export your stories to video. After that, you can add audio and captioning for those who may not be able to access your SnapChat content directly.

Accessible YouTube and Vimeo

YouTube’s player has become more accessible over time, especially since 2015, when HTML 5 became the default player. YouTube also offers keyboard shortcuts and help for use with a screen reader. When creating and sharing videos you should:

  • Include closed captions, an audio description, and a full transcript on all YouTube videos.
    • Clean up automatic captioning for accuracy.
    • Closed captions should include what is said and a description of other key sounds that aren’t described visually. Describe the speaker’s tone of voice if it is not readily apparent.
  • See YouTube Help about captions and subtitles.
  • See Vimeo Help about captions and subtitles.

Instagram and LinkedIn Tips

When platforms don’t make embedded alt text and closed captions available, always provide a detailed caption with each image and provide transcripts with videos.

Instagram added alt text capabilities in late 2018.


Sydney ShimkoSydney Shimko/Front End Developer

Sydney Shimko is a senior member of the Front-End team and Accessibility Practice Lead at Northwoods. She combines the aesthetics of thoughtful design with semantic, responsive code. She strives to provide the best solutions for client projects, negotiating rapid change in the field of Front-End development and ensuring functionality across an ever-growing variety of devices and new technologies.

Connect with Sydney on LinkedIn | Read Sydney Shimko's Blogs

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