Accessible Social Media

Social media can be an incredible tool! It allows those who, for one reason or another, experience an element of social isolation to interact with the wider world. Sure, it can be frustrating at times: who hasn't gone through a "that's it, I'm quitting Facebook" stage? But, its importance in connecting people and empowering communities cannot be understated. That's why it's important to ensure that when you are using social media networks you make the most of the accessibility features available.

General best practices for all platforms:

# Hashtags

No matter what social media network you are using you should always categorise the first letter of each word in a hashtag to ensure that a screen reader can tell when each word starts and ends. This allows for visually impaired users to understand the hashtag rather than just receive a chain of letters. It's also just generally good practice as can help you avoid any embarrassing hashtag fails... For example, imagine a Spanish tourist board using the hashtag #ChooseSpain, it could quite easily be misinterpreted as Chooses Pain if the first letters are not capitalised.

URLs

When sites like twitter were just starting out everyone rushed to use URL shorteners to help lower their character counts. For example, http://www.scovi.org.uk/toolkit/accessible-social-media uses a lot of characters, and online shorteners such at bit.ly could shorten that URL without affecting where it links to, reducing it to https://bit.ly/2Ii44aC or similar.

Nowadays, sites like Twitter use a standard character count for URLs regardless of how long the URL is, which has caused many people to stop bothering with URL shorteners. However, a URL shortener can help someone using a screen reader avoid having to listen to unnecessarily long URLs in the middle of tweets or posts.

Emojis

In general, screen reading technologies are advancing and many inbuilt accessibility tools such as in Apple's iOS will read out a description of any emojis used. However, some screen reading technology hasn't caught up and will miss the emoji altogether.

This doesn't mean you have to stop using emojis, but be aware that some meaning may be lost to those relying on screen readers. It's also important to not how voice over software will read an emoji. While some simple emojis will be read out as "smiley face" others can be a little more longwinded. For example, "Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes" may be alright to use once, but if you use it multiple times in a row for emphasis a screen reader user will have to listen to it being said multiple times. Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes Grinning Cat Face With Smiling Eyes.

Alt Text

As detailed in individual network sections below, many social networks now give you the option of adding "alternative text" when posting pictures. This allows you to provide a description for the picture which the screen reader can read out.

Check out this excellent article by Rob Long about the difference that picture descriptions can make to visually impaired users. Alt text should provide a concise and clear description of what is portrayed visually and shouldn't be used to add in additional information to get around character counts. Make your descriptions imaginative and creative, but avoid longwinded descriptions. Think about how you'd like to have the picture described to you.

Twitter

Best practices for accessible tweeting

Twitter logo

Summary:

  • Ensure that you have enabled picture descriptions within your settings
  • Add descriptors when tweeting a hyperlink, such as [AUDIO], [PIC], or [VIDEO] to ensure it's clear what the hyperlink will take the user to
  • Minimise the number of characters in a hyperlink by using a URL shortener (such as http://bit.ly)
  • If possible, put mentions and hashtags at the end of your tweets
  • Avoid acronyms

Picture descriptions

Adding Picture Descriptions on Twitter.com

First of all you need to ensure that picture descriptions are activated in your settings, the following details how to do this using Twitter.com in a web browser on a desktop of laptop computer:

  • Click on your profile icon and select Settings and privacy from the dropdown (or press the “g” key quickly, followed by the “s” key).
  • Click Accessibility from the list of settings.
  • Find the Compose image descriptions checkbox.
  • Check the box to turn the setting on or off.
  • Click Save changes.

How to add image descriptions in Tweets from twitter.com:

  • Click on the Tweet compose button, or press the “n” key to use the keyboard shortcut.
    Attach your photo(s).
  • Note: For detailed instructions about adding photos to your Tweets, read this article.
  • To insert descriptive text, open the thumbnail preview dialog by clicking on the thumbnail. (If you are using the keyboard, focus the thumbnail using the “tab” key and press the “enter” key to open the thumbnail preview dialog).
  • Type your description of the image and click the Apply button. To edit the description, re-open the thumbnail preview dialog prior to posting the Tweet. (The limit is 420 characters.)
  • You can add a description to each image in a Tweet.

Note: Image descriptions cannot be added to GIFs or videos.

(Information provided by Twitter.com accessibility guide)

Apple iOS

How to enable the composition of image descriptions from Twitter for iOS 

  1. In the top menu, tap your profile icon, then tap Settings and privacy.
  2. Under General, tap Accessibility.
  3. Next to Compose image descriptions, drag the slider to turn the setting on or off.

How to add image descriptions in Tweets from Twitter for iOS 

  1. Start by tapping the Tweet compose icon  and attach your photo(s).
    Note: For detailed instructions about adding photos to your Tweets, read this article.
  2. On the image, tap Add description to insert descriptive text.
  3. Type your description of the image and tap Apply. Tap the description again to edit it prior to posting the Tweet. (The limit is 420 characters.)
  4. You can add a description to each image in a Tweet.
    Note: Image descriptions cannot be added to GIFs or videos.

Android

How to enable the composition of image descriptions from Twitter for Android

  1. In the top menu, you will either see a navigation menu icon or your profile icon. Tap whichever icon you have.
  2. Tap Settings and privacy.
  3. Under General, tap Accessibility.
  4. Next to Compose image descriptions, tick the box to turn the setting on or off.

How to add image descriptions in Tweets from Twitter for Android

  1. Start by tapping the Tweet icon and attach your photo(s).
    Note: For detailed instructions about adding photos to your Tweets, read this article.
  2. On the image, tap Add description to insert descriptive text.
  3. Type your description of the image and tap Apply. Tap the description again to edit it prior to posting the Tweet. (The limit is 420 characters.)
  4. You can add a description to each image in a Tweet.
    Note: Image descriptions cannot be added to GIFs or videos.

Formatting

Twitter automatically shortens most URLs adding its own prefix, this is helpful in making the tweet's appearance less complicated for fully sighted users, and also avoids a screen reader user having to listen to an unnecessarily long URL being read out. However, it makes it more important to indicate what the link is and where it will take the user within the body of the tweet.

Be as descriptive as possible when linking to multimedia content. Indicate what content you have linked to by adding  [VIDEO], [PIC] or [AUDIO] at the end of your tweet.


Facebook

Best practices for accessible facebook use

facebook logo

Summary:

  • Ensure that you add picture descriptions as Facebook's automated description feature may not always be accurate
  • Add descriptions to any videos
  • Avoid acronyms - Facebook doesn't have a character limit like Twitter, so there's no reason not to fully explain acronyms
  • Keep up to date with Facebook's accessibility tools by following their Accessibility Facebook Page or @fbaccess on Twitter

Picture descriptions

Editing Facebook's Automatic Alt Text

Facebook's automatic alt text uses object recognition technology to provide a visual description of a photo for screen reader users. You can replace this text to provide a better description of a photo. Keep in mind that this description will only be read if someone is using a screen reader to access Facebook.

To see and edit alt text for a photo before you post it:

  • Click Photo/Video at the top of your News Feed.
  • Select the photo you want to add.
  • Click Edit Photo, then click Alt Text.
  • The automatically generated text will be shown on the left side of your photo. Click Override generated alt text to edit it.
  • Write your alt text in the box. To change back to the automatically generated text, click Clear.
  • To save your alt text, click Save in the bottom right.

To change the alt text of a photo after you've posted it:

  • Click the photo to open it.
  • Click Options in the bottom right and select Change Alt Text.
  • Click Override generated alt text or change the alt text in the text box. You can also click Clear to change your edited alt text back to the automatically generated text.
  • Click Save.

Information taken from Facebook's Accessibility Help Centre.


Video descriptions and captioning

Making Video Content Accessible

Ensure the video contains a voiceover. 

Facebook boasts around eight million video views per day, though according to statistics published by content providers around 85 per cent of Facebook video views are viewed in silence, without the sound being activated. Due to this trend in consumption habits, many content creators now add subtitles, which is great for those with hearing loss, but has resulted in voiceovers and audio explanations becoming much rarer. Many major news outlets will produce videos with lots of catchy text on the screen, but without an accompanying voiceover.

Ensure that any text which is visible on the screen is also read out by a voiceover or narrator.

Add a description in the post content.

There is no option to provide alt text for videos, it is therefore important to ensure that you provide a description of any visual elements of the video that a viewer with a visual impairment may miss out on. You can provide a description in the body of the post. It is usually easiest to add this in square brackets at the end of the post. For example, "[Video description - all onscreen text is read out by the voiceover, the video shows the text over a blue background and a picture of a boy on a bench]"

Where possible, you should also provide a link to an audio described version of your video.

Captioning

Subtitles are becoming more commonplace due to the change in consumption habits outlined above, this has resulted in platforms such as Facebook and YouTube making the process of adding subtitles much more straightforward. Both platforms feature a transcription method which will allow you to type along with the video, with the video automatically pausing when you type. Alternatively you can upload your own captions file.

Full information on how to add captions to your video is available on Facebook's Accessibility Help Centre page.