Learning how to make your digital marketing inclusive is an important, continuous learning experience. 

Most of your marketing materials, including social media posts, will require a careful comb through to ensure they’re accessible, but there are certain tools you can commit to memory for use. Keep reading to find tools to keep in your back pocket that can help ensure that you’re reaching your audience no matter what, especially while on social media.

What is Accessibility?

Web accessibility has been an important topic of discussion since the inception of the internet, and as more people use the web to shop, work, communicate and live during the Digital Age, tools and techniques that make the experience more accessible are only becoming more important. With over half the world (4.62 billion people) using social media, it simply makes good business sense to optimize your posts and pages to ensure that you’re reaching your audience, no matter their capabilities.

To find out what exactly accessibility is, let’s look at how the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights defines the term:

Accessible means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology.

Social Media Accessibility

These days, it’s pretty difficult to find a brand not on social media, and for good reason. Social media is an excellent tool for brands to connect with customers. Here are 5 ways brands and individuals can optimize social media posts to be more accessible:

  • Hashtag Formatting

People use the hashtag symbol (#) before relevant topics on most social media sites to categorize the word, phrase or topic and help their content come up more easily in searches on the platform. To make sure all of your customers know what your hashtag says, make sure to capitalize the first letter of each word. This method is often referred to as Title case, Pascal case or Camel case. 

Using the Title case ensures that your hashtags get read correctly by assistive devices like screen readers, often used by people with vision impairments or other individuals that need words read to them. 

You can use the Title case in more than just hashtags. For example, Twitter will allow you to adjust the case of the letters in your handle without choosing a whole new username. 

  • Emoji usage

Emojis are a fun way to make your captions stand out. They can express various content, including people, animals, food and activities and are often used interchangeably with written words. When you’re making a conscious effort to make your content accessible, it’s important to be able to look at your emoji usage and determine how it will be read to those who may not be reading the screen themselves.

Screen readers read emojis to it’s user. For example, you might use the “?” emoji to mean “surfs up” but when a screen reader reads it, it will say “call me hand” and probably cause a bit of confusion. To make your content as accessible as possible, don’t overdo your emoji usage. Prioritize written text in your copy and place emojis at the end of an already complete statement, so that they compliment your writing instead of relying on them to tell a story. Avoid using emojis as bullet points unless absolutely necessary.

If you’re ever wondering how your emoji might sound on a screen reader, check out emojipedia.org, a resource that will give you the written explanation of every emoji. When you’re proofreading your captions, try reading the description of your emojis out loud. If it doesn’t make sense without seeing the emoji, consider changing to something more accessible. 

  • Video and Image Descriptions

Users who are blind or low vision usually rely on descriptions to be able to tell what may be going on in an image or video online. In order to fully experience your content, these users will need you to provide either an audio or written description of what your image or video entails.

Audio descriptions are worked into a video using a voiceover software or app. A separate audio file is made and added to the video so that users can hear what is happening while a video is playing.

Written descriptions usually appear in the caption of a piece of media and describe, in detail, what is happening in the photo or video. Descriptions should be detailed and allow the user to visualize your content as accurately as possible.

  • Alternative Text

Very similar to video and image descriptions, alternative text is a physical summary of an image, to accurately describe it to a user. When a screen reader encounters an image, it looks for the alternative text to be able to provide an accurate depiction. If your image features a lot of text, you will need to accurately describe the text presented in alternative text as a screen reader recognizes characters, not images. Avoid using abbreviations in alternative text. 

All of the major social media platforms feature a way to include alternative text, though it may not be accessible from scheduling platforms in some cases.

  •  Color

Working graphics into your social media strategy is a great way to grow brand awareness on social media, express important topics and maintain an aesthetically pleasing feed. 

That being said, its important to recognize that not everyone sees color the same way. Color contrast is extremely important to keep in mind when creating graphics in order to ensure that your graphics are easy to read by all users. The great folks at Adobe have provided two important tools that can help navigate arranging colors on social media.

The Adobe color contrast analyzer (https://color.adobe.com/create/color-contrast-analyzer) allows you to input different colors and compare their contrast levels to recommended standards.

The color blind tool (https://color.adobe.com/create/color-accessibility) is also available and simulates how your color scheme would look to someone who has deuteranopia, protanopia or tritanopia. 

More Free Resources

An incredible resource has recently been created to help all digital marketers create more accessible content on social media, emails and other digital marketing channels.

Accessible social (https://www.accessible-social.com) was created by Alexa Heinrich in March of 2022. This is an amazing tool to bookmark and keep handy whenever you’re creating content and calendars to communicate with your audience. 

It only takes a few extra minutes to make sure you’re producing accessible content, and while the gesture gets easier as time goes on, your customers no matter their capabilities, will appreciate a brand that takes the time to include everyone.