Instagram recently published an update on their accessibility improvements. They talked about how recently added features like auto-generated captions and caption stickers for Stories and Reels have helped improve audiences’ experiences on the platform. While it’s encouraging to see Meta taking accessibility more seriously, there’s still a way to go – and as content creators, there is more we can do to improve accessibility than just relying on platform features.
Why is it important to go the extra mile when it comes to accessibility and what is best practise?
In their recent update, Instagram noted that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.2 billion people live with vision impairments and over 430 million people live with hearing loss. But the need to prioritise accessibility goes far beyond supporting those with vision and hearing disabilities.
Around 15% of the world’s population experience disability. Disabilities can be visual, auditory, cognitive, behavioural, or physical, and may be permanent or temporary. All of these can impact the way someone experiences digital content – and not always in the ways we assume. For example, someone with:
- a vision impairment may rely on image descriptions to interpret photos posted on Instagram
- dyslexia may prefer short paragraphs of copy to aid in reading
- a temporary hearing disability (ear infection, injury, or recent surgery) may require captions on videos.
It’s not just people with a disability that benefit from accessibility features though. Up to 85% of videos on social media are watched with the sound off, meaning features like captions are crucial to ensuring any audience can enjoy your video content.
So, how can you make your social media posts more accessible? We’ve put together a handy checklist to help you out.
1. Consider unconscious bias when ideating content
If you have never experienced a disability, it’s easy to assume that everyone will experience social media content in the same way you do. It’s important to avoid this unconscious bias by actively considering how others might access your content. You could ask yourself questions like:
How might someone with a vision or auditory disability experience this content?
In what ways can I ensure this content is clear and accessible to someone who may find it more difficult to focus?
2. Write clear, simple copy
Avoid jargon and technical terms, unless it makes sense to do so for your specific audience.
Limit the use of emojis, and never use them to replace words, only to add a bit of fun! Screen reader software used by people with vision impairments will read out the emoji descriptions, so keep this in mind.
Don’t use special characters in copy – see this example to find out why this is a bad idea!
3. Create clear graphics
Avoid graphics with lots of text (screen reader software used by people with vision impairments can’t read flattened copy).
Consider colour contrast. If the contrast between the text and background it too low, text can be difficult to read. Use this colour contrast checker to help out!
4. Add alt text for images
Alternative text, also known as alt text or image descriptions, is copy that describes an image to those who may not be able to view the image (if the webpage doesn’t load properly, or the person has a vision impairment). Good alt text ensures the meaning or feeling of the image is conveyed through words and is not just a literal description. More tips on writing alt text can be found here.
5. Add captions for videos
Create closed caption files for videos that will be used on platforms supporting closed captions (like Facebook and YouTube). These captions can be turned on or off by the user and can be accessed by screen readers.
Use open captions if closed captions are not available (like the new auto-caption stickers on Instagram stories). These captions can’t be turned on or off by the user and are not accessible to screen readers.
6. Use software to check the accessibility of your content before publishing
Use a simulator tool like SilkTide to view your content from the perspective of someone who uses a screen reader, who has a vision impairment, or a cognitive disability like dyslexia. This will not only offer you some understanding of others’ experiences, but also let you know if your content is accessible.
accessibility, digital, social media