Accessibility Issues
Social Media Barriers to Consider

Not including alt-text or an image description

Assistive devices can’t describe an image without Alt-Text. Alt text tells people what is in an image, such as basic essential details. If an image fails to load, alt text displays in its place. Search engines index alt-text when rating web content for search engine results.

  • Add alt-text to photos to ensure users understand what is going on in the picture.
  • Alt-text captions don’t need to be long, but they should clearly describe the subject and provide context. Some social media platforms automate alt-text using artificial intelligence, but those descriptions are often poor representations of the image. We’d recommend you edit those.

When you’re writing your image description you’ll want to think about context and equal access. That will inform what you’re actually including in your image description.

Sharing images with text on them, especially those with small text

Assistive technology cannot read text on images. It’s burned onto the image file like an iron on t-shirt and cannot differentiate the two. Small font is hard for many people to read, especially on mobile devices.

If a post uses an image that is text-heavy – for example, an event announcement or a statement from the college – make sure that the information is also presented in another way so it is accessible to a screen reader. Even better, consider not using the text graphic at all – we find posts with powerful photos result in higher engagement anyway.

Contrast examples.
The bottom two sentences would not pass an accessibility contrast check. The top sentence would, but only at a certain font size.

Color contrast, especially in stories on Instagram or Facebook

Any image that includes text needs to have a certain level of contrast – a color difference between the background and the text. Depending on the size and color you choose, your text might not be legible for older audiences or people with vision problems.

You should check your color contrast in different lighting situations, such as the outdoors in bright sunlight, to ensure it’s legible. WebAim provides a tool for comparing your color contrasts with WCAG Standards. 

Video without captions

Tone of voice is also important to note, particularly if not obvious from a person’s facial expression (or if the person’s face can’t be seen). A lot of meaning and information can get lost by certain viewers with hearing or cognitive impairments if they are not made aware of sounds, tone of voice, etc.; the way the meaning of spoken content is interpreted can completely change based on this information. Knowing that the background music is cheery, for example, helps signal that the producers mean for the scene to be viewed in a light way and can help shape viewers’ expectations for the kinds of things that will follow. Someone saying “I’m doing great” in a sarcastic tone clearly means something very different from someone saying it in a casual or light tone.

Reposting inaccessible content

Be mindful of the content you’re reposting too. If you’re retweeting a complex graphic or an image with text on it, check to see if an image description is provided. If not, can you repost the content yourself with an image description/alt-text and link to the source? Can you quote-tweet and link to an accessible version?

Using Acronyms

Acronyms are often confusing for an external audience and can often turn into “alphabet soup”.