In today’s world, social media is an important communication tool and ensuring sure your communication message is reaching everyone means making sure your content is accessible to everyone.
There are 14 million disabled people in the UK and there are many different ways for people with visual or hearing impairments to use and interact with social media. A cognitive impairment can also impact a person’s ability to understand a message. Tools can include screen reader software, magnifying tools and braille displays.
At CPMM Media Group, we recognise that diversity, inclusion, and accessibility are important considerations in how organisations communicate. We also understand how valuable social media is to schools and colleges in helping them communicate quickly and effectively with parents, carers, students, staff, communities, and other stakeholders, across an ever-growing number of channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to name but a few. Social media is also a successful marketing tool to reach prospective new students and families.
Digital accessibility is making sure that the content you post on social media channels is accessible to everyone no matter what their impairment or what technology they use.
Making sure your social media channels work for every single user is therefore really important.
Great content and accessibility can go hand in hand.
The PR and marketing team at CPMM Media recognise that in a busy school and college environment where the everyday gets in the way of many things on the ‘to do’ list, time is precious. So, we have put together a very simple step-by-step guide to help you make your social media content more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Step One: Use camel case hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to spread awareness and knowledge to any post you put up. However, sometimes they can be difficult to read, especially if you are using multiple words in one hashtag. This is where camel case comes in.
Camel case is when you capitalise the first letter of every word when using compound words or phrases. So, like #WorldBookDay rather than #worldbookday
Camel case makes the text much easier to read. Most importantly, it improves accessibility, specifically for:
It also doesn’t just apply to people with visual impairments. Using camel case is also beneficial to people who are stressed, in a hurry, do not have a lot of fluency in the English language, and so on. There are certainly a number of advantages.
So, if you are not using camel case on your social media posts, CPMM Media Group urge you to start doing so. It makes hashtags so much easier to read and will allow more people to understand your content and engage with your post.
Step Two: Use alt-text
Sharing pictures is another great way to engage with your audience. However, somebody who is blind, or who has any visual impairment will or may not be able to see a picture, this is where alternative text, otherwise known as ‘alt’ text comes in.
Alt-text is a summary of an image that accurately describes what is going on. This means that someone who uses assertive technology will know what is going on in an image without having to see it. It is also useful for when an image fails to load on social media, so that people know what is in place of the missing image.
To keep the summary short and simple, just describe what is going on in the picture. Try and do this in 125 characters or less. It’s simple, concise, and gets straight to the point.
Remember though that in some cases, there is no need to use an alt-text, like decorative images.
Some things you could include:
Important note: There is no need to use ‘Image of’ or ‘Photo of’ in the alt-text.
Adding alt-text to a Twitter post
To add alt-text to a Twitter post on a desktop or through the app, firstly compose a tweet and then attach the photo you wish to use.
Click on ‘Add description’.
Type your description of the picture and then click ‘done’. You are limited to 1000 characters in an alt-text, but you should be using less than this anyway.
To check if an image on Twitter has alt-text on it, right click on the image and then select ‘Inspect’. If alt-text has been manually added, you will be able to see this on the side. This is what will be read out when someone is using a screen reader.
Adding alt-text to a Facebook post
Facebook automatically generates alt-text for images, but these should not be relied on. To see what a person using a screen reader would hear when looking at one of your Facebook posts, right click on an image and click ‘Inspect’. You will be shown what your alt-text says.
To add alt-text to a Facebook post before you post it on a desktop, click ‘Edit’ in the upper left corner of the image. Type in your alternative text and once you are happy, post it.
To add alt-text to the mobile version of Facebook, click on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner. Click ‘Edit Alt Text’, and again type in your description of the image. Ignore the warning that says alt-text is usually less than 100 characters.
How you add alt-text to pictures on your website will depend on your school or college’s website content management system (CMS), and you should check if you are able to do this and how. The majority of CMSs will have this built in as standard, however you may not be prompted to add alt-text, and therefore this should be something CPMM Media Group would recommend you add to your process for uploading content to your website. Ensuring there is alt-text on pictures on your website is very important, as this is where people will want to look in regard to any key information about your school or college. Alt-text also improves your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), meaning your website traffic is very likely to increase if you use alt-text in your website’s images.
Step Three: Use emojis sensibly
While emojis can make your school appear human and can communicate to your audience in a universal way, they should be used in moderation and at the end of a sentence or tweet. All emojis have assigned additional information, so someone using a screen reader will hear the description of any emoji used. Check what the emojis you are using mean on https://emojipedia.org/ Some have a few different meanings.
So, if you have a habit of putting random emojis in sentences, especially in the middle of them, this could cause a lot of confusion to someone using assistive technology and could exclude people from accessing your content. It’s therefore important to take careful consideration and ask, ‘Does that emoji really need to there?’. If not, take it out. Also, try and avoid repeating the same emoji over and over again.
Choose emojis that have good colour contrasts too. This is particularly important for people who use dark mode on their apps.
So, while emojis can be a fun way to interact with your audience, remember that they are not appropriate in all situations. Use them moderately and at the end of sentences, and make sure to check what they mean as they could cause confusion to people using screen readers. Also, check the colour contrasts, as people using dark mode might not be able to view them properly.
Like the good old exclamation mark, emojis lose their impact if overused.
Step Four: Add voice descriptions and captions for videos
If you want your video content to be accessible by people with visual impairments, hearing loss or deafness, limited dexterity or mobility, cognitive impairments, or other relevant needs, you need to consider how to make your videos accessible and help those with disabilities have a comparable experience with your content as those without a disability.
Using closed captions in any videos you upload means your content will be inclusive to people who have hearing impairments. While captions only include the dialogue of what is being said in a video, closed captions include any background noise or music.
You should also include a transcript of any audio in a video you upload, so people who use assistive technology or have sensory or cognitive disabilities can access the text. If you use Microsoft 365 have a look at Transcribe in Word
If a video you upload only has visuals or background music, a screen reader will not be able to identify these elements. This would exclude people who have visual impairments, so consider the content of any video you have made before posting it.
This advice applies to websites too. Some websites have an auto playing video taking up all of the homepage, which can actually put people off exploring your website further rather than draw people in. Since the homepage is where your audience will go first, if they are unable to navigate around it because you are only playing a video, this will exclude people from accessing all content on your website. Having a video without captions will exclude people with hearing impairments from what is going on, while having a video with visuals only will exclude people with visual impairments from your website.
By following CPMM Media Group’s tips your social media and website content will become more inclusive and accessible to everyone who interacts with your communication. If you think your content is not currently fully accessible to everyone, now is a great time to start changing how you create and post your school or college’s online communication to social media and your website.