Creating Accessible Social Media

Because social media content is widely used by University students, employees, and the public, accessibility-supported features made available by the platforms should be utilized. 

Alternative Text Descriptions

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook allow users to add alt text to images so that visually impaired users can better understand images on the screen. Even though some platforms provide automatically generated image descriptions, you commonly see people adding the photo description to the main post. The auto-generated descriptions are very simple and not always accurate.  They may misidentify or not properly convey the subject matter in the image. 

Text and Links on Images

Text and links on images are inaccessible just as they are on websites and should not be used on social media platforms. The text on images is not accessible to people with disabilities and can't be read by screen readers. Screen readers will identify the photo as an image, but won't be able to recognize the words embedded in it. This includes photos with text added using Photoshop or the editing tools within the platform itself. The text can be hard to read and will become pixilated and unreadable when enlarged. Also, the user can't interact with the text. If you add an email address, URL, RSVP link, etc, the user can't click or copy/paste any of that information. Another thing to keep in mind is that the text on the images can't be found by a search engine such as Google. 

CamelCase Hashtags

Hashtags are an important component of social media posts. When you add hashtags that are made up of multiple words, use initial capitalization, also known as CamelCase. Using this technique makes the hashtag easier to read for all users. It also assists screen readers since their synthesized voices can recognize and pronounce the individual words in the hashtag. #WriteYourHashtagsLikeThis instead of #writingyourhashtagslikethis.

Emojis and Emoticons

Emojis displayed on a screen will be described by a screen reader. For example, the clapping hands emoji will be read aloud as “clapping hands.” When creating emoticons with text, consider the experience for screen reader users. In this example, this visual experience of a shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ will be read aloud by a screen reader as: “Macron, backslash, underline, katakana, underline, slash, macron.”

Animated GIFs

On platforms that allow for alternative text descriptions on GIFs, you should use alt text just as you would for a still image. Alt text is only available to screen reader users. However, many users who do not use screen readers may have trouble reading images of text in a GIF that are low-resolution, low-contrast, distorted, or only shown briefly.

WashU Social Media Guide

Operating a social media account that represents an official school unit–departments, programs, centers, or labs–isn't like managing a personal account. Since you are seeking to represent the university in a public space, there are specific guidelines and policies for how best to manage the account.

learn about social media guidelines at WashU