Illustration of Twitter icon on a computer screen

Making Social Media Accessible

Social media is another way users share and receive information. As social media platforms evolve, so must accessibility standards. When developing and communicating different types of content on social media, keep the following areas in mind.

On this page:

Key tips:

  • Keep your posts simple and use plain language (keep the acronyms to a minimum).
  • Put your main/important content first and add hashtags and @mentions to the end of a post.
  • When linking to other pages or resources include as much descriptive text as possible in your content so users have an idea of what to expect upon arrival.
  • Provide image descriptions.
  • Caption all videos.
  • Be mindful of using platform effects that could trigger photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Have a contact email or help information.
  • When embedding social media widgets on your page, limit the number of elements in the feed (for example, 3-5 tweets or Instagram images) to reduce the keyboard-only user's tabbing overhead.

Hashtags

  • Use camel case for hashtags.
    Camel case is when the first letter of each word in a hashtag is capitalized (e.g., #AccessibilityIsTheRightThing). Screen readers will insert a space after each word that is in camel case, making the overall meaning easier to understand. For example, the hashtag "#GoViolets!" would be read as two words.
  • Keep your hashtags short.
    Short hashtags are easier to remember and in cases where space is limited, gives you more room for content.
  • Know the hashtag best practices for the platform.
    Specific platforms use hashtags differently. For example, with a character limit on Twitter, you might select 2-3 hashtags to use along with @mentions and links. For Instagram, you can use up to 30 tags on a post. However, if you include more than 30 tags on a single photo/video, your comment will not post.

Acronyms

If you must use an acronym, spell it out the first time it is used. Don't assume that your reader knows what your acronym means. For example:

New York University Information Technology (NYU IT)

If there is not enough space in a post or a tweet, try to use another way of saying the acronym or link it to its corresponding profile page on the platform.

^ Back to top

Image Descriptions

Images require alternative text (alt text), but not all platforms provide mechanisms for this functionality. In general, if you can't add alt text to an image, create an enhanced description for the image.  

Memes and Images with Text

When posting images containing text-overlays or memes, make sure your description includes all the text content from the image. For example, if you are posting an image of an inspirational quote, your description should contain the text of the inspirational quote in addition to any other text you are including.

If the text is overlaid on an image of something or someone related to the quote (for example, the individual to whom the quote is attributed), you should also indicate that the image contains a photo of the specific individual. However, this is not necessary if the background image is purely decorative.

GIFs

GIFs typically convey emotions, show reactions, or feature scenes from videos. However, unlike videos, GIFs are only a couple of seconds long and typically only feature one specific thing.

When writing alt text for GIFs, include the following information:

  • Any descriptions of people or animals in the image. If it's a celebrity, it's ok to just include their name-no additional physical description is necessary.
  • For GIFs from a TV show, movie, or other media, include the character names and the name of the show, i.e "Rose and The Doctor from Doctor Who".
  • The background/setting if relevant.
  • Any emotion or relevant movement, such as if someone is surprised or if the camera zooms in quickly.
  • Write out any relevant text that is on the screen. A stop sign in the background that has nothing to do with the gif doesn't need to be mentioned, but captions do.
  • Additional visual effects, if relevant, such as the color scheme or if there are lots of flashing lights.

[Adapted from and more information available on Veronica Lewis' Veronica With Four Eyes blog]

Facebook

Facebook provides automatic alternative text for images using object recognition technology to create a description of a photo for the blind and vision-loss community. However when uploading images through the desktop version of Facebook, we recommend that you add custom alternative text.

More information: How do I edit the alternative text for a photo? [Facebook Help Center]

Instagram

When adding a photo to Instagram, choose the Advanced Settings option and then under the Accessibility section, choose Write Alt Text. The alt text won't show up in the caption for the photo, but it will be read out loud if the individual is using a screen reader.

While this is a great added benefit for screen reader users, it is still best practice to use the "Write a caption" area to provide as much descriptive text as possible about the image. You could also add the words Alt text: and then provide an additional image description or use the hashtag #alttext preceding your enhanced description.  

More information:

Twitter

Desktop Twitter

For Twitter on your desktop:

  1. After uploading an image to a Tweet, select Add description underneath the image.
  2. Enter a description of the image in the text box. There is a 1,000 character limit.
  3. Select Save. An ALT (alternative text) badge will appear in the corner of the image.
  4. Select Tweet. When someone selects the ALT badge, the image description appears on screen.

If you add more than one image to your Tweet, you'll see arrows at the top of the dialog that allow you to navigate to each image to add the descriptions. After adding all your image descriptions and saving, you'll see the ALT badge appear on the images that have a description. A note below the images that says "2 image descriptions" also confirms how many image descriptions have been added.

Mobile App Twitter
  1. After uploading an image to a Tweet, select the +ALT (alternative text) button on the image.
  2. Enter a description of the image in the text box. There is a 1,000 character limit.
  3. Select Done. An ALT badge will appear in the corner of the image. The + symbol no longer appears on the badge now that the description has been added.
  4. Select Tweet. The ALT badge appears on the image of the posted Tweet.
    • On iOS, when someone selects the ALT badge, the image description appears on screen from the bottom up.
    • On Android, when someone selects the ALT badge, the image description appears on screen.
More information: How to add image descriptions [Twitter Help Center]

LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows for alt text to be added to images that are shared on your feed or that you embed in articles.

More information: Adding Alternative Text to Images for Accessibility [LinkedIn Help]

 

Descriptive Text for External Links

If your post links to a page that features videos, photos, or audio, include as much descriptive text as possible in your content so users have an idea of what to expect upon arrival. Also make sure that the page to which you are sending users includes content that has descriptive text, captions, or any other description that can help a user understand the page content.

Non-Accessible Link Content

However, if there is no alternative but to direct users to other sites with content that is not accessible, inform them first by including a short note of what to expect. For example:

  • A video does not have captions or descriptive text
  • The video will start automatically
  • There is an audio file, but not a written version

Announcing Video/Audio/Image Content

If your post links to a video, photo, or audio file, be sure to mention this in the content. For example, [VIDEO], [PHOTO], or [AUDIO]. This allows people using screen readers to know what to expect before opening any link.

^ Back to top

Captioning

Social media is often accessed through mobile devices. It also may be accessed in locations where device volume must be muted. Therefore, this is a medium where video captioning benefits all users. It may be helpful to think about building your video content for "silent mode" and ensure that captions are present. Refer to our How To Guide for Video and Audio for best practices.

When creating videos specifically for social media platforms (as opposed to linking to a pre-existing video), consider burning in the captions (e.g. - "open captions") to the video using a free tool such as Handbrake. While the end user will not be able to turn off the captions, there is value to having them on by default.

More information:

Facebook Video Captioning

Facebook offers support for captioning videos on their platform. However, you will first need to prepare a .srt file. To do so, you may upload your video to NYU Stream or YouTube and then download the file.

More information:

Facebook Live

Minnesota IT Services, the Information Technology agency for Minnesota's executive branch, shared some lessons learned and best practices for using Facebook Live. The result of this experience was a "toolkit" for using this service.

More information: Accessibility Toolkit for Facebook Live [Minnesota IT Services]

Instagram

Instagram allows creators to add automatically generated captions (using speech recognition technology) to videos. After you've uploaded or created a new video, before selecting the Share option, do the following:

  1. Tap Advanced settings at the bottom to edit more settings for your post.
  2. Toggle the switch off option next to Auto-generate captions to turn on captions for your video.
More information: How can I manage video captions on Instagram? [Instagram Help]
 
Note, since the captions are auto-generated, the accuracy won't always be 100%.  The auto-captioning also does not transcribe tone of voice - for example, whispering, yelling, or sarcasm - and may not transcribe all sounds.
 
Therefore, if you're creating promotional video content for this platform, consider burning in the captions (e.g. - "open captions") to the video using a free tool such as Handbrake. This lets you create 100% accurate captions for your videos.

You may also create video description information for the captioning area as well as add selected quotes from the video.

Instagram Stories

When creating a video story using audio, you can find an option to add a "Caption sticker" - similar to other stickers used for location, music, hashtags, etc. Once the sticker is chosen, you can move the location of the caption sticker to position the captions on the video and choose from several font styles.

Again, since the captions are auto-generated, the accuracy won't always be 100%.  The auto-captioning also does not transcribe tone of voice - for example, whispering, yelling, or sarcasm - and may not transcribe all sounds.

You may still want to consider burning in the captions (e.g. - "open captions") to the video when creating planned, promotional content for Instagram Stories, using a free tool such as Handbrake

When creating quick content for Instagram Stories, before posting, review your content and add a simple text overlay using the text tool to describe the key elements of what is being shown. Or, add an accompanying story using Type Mode that provides a description of the video content.

Note that there is no current way to caption Instagram Live Video. Once you've ended the video, you may add it to your Stories. However, if you want to add additional descriptive information to the video, save it to your phone's camera roll and then re-upload it to your Stories with the descriptive text.

You could also upload your video to another platform (e.g. YouTube), generate captions using that platform's utility, then put a link to the captioned video in the Instagram description - for example:

A captioned version of this video is available at:
https://www.youtube.com/user/NYUITvideos/1929615

More information:

TikTok

On TikTok, select auto captions in the editing page of the app after you've uploaded or recorded a video. Spoken audio is then automatically transcribed into text and displayed on your video. The captions can then be edited after they are produced to ensure accuracy.

Currently, auto-generated captions are only available in American English and Japanese, with additional language support to be added in the coming months.
 
More information: Introducing auto captions [TikTok Newsroom]
 
 

Adding Contact and Help Information

Include a customer support number or email in your page bio. Providing contact information for a user that may be struggling to access your online content will be of great help.

^ Back to top

Additional Resources

The following pages have additional information on best practices for social media platforms:

The Tommy Edison Experience

Tommy Edison uses humor to answer the most popular questions about living without sight. In his The Tommy Edison Experience YouTube channel, he shares his refreshing take on how blind users experience social media.