Engaging with accessible social media – Facebook and Twitter
The importance of a social media presence may be well accepted, but many overlook a crucial element of successful engagement. With 20 percent of the Australian population having some form of disability, accessibility is key and benefits both users and organisations who are wanting to engage with as many potential customers as they can.
Successful social media strategies
While most businesses and Government utilities have now jumped on the social media bandwagon, many are unaware that their online presence may be inaccessible to members of their target audience. In particular, social media apps can present barriers for the 20 percent of Australians living with disability.
An essential tool for the distribution of information and interaction with audiences, accessible social media is fundamental for business success by ensuring widespread audience engagement, fostering social inclusion and demonstrating good corporate citizenship. To ensure effective communication with people who have disability, Media Access Australia has developed some useful guidelines for accessible social media – and here’s a brief summary on Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook – Capturing audiences through captioning
As the world’s largest social media platform with 1.79 billion users worldwide and 15 million in Australia, Facebook accessibility is crucial to a successful social media presence. In previous research conducted by Media Access Australia, the primary Facebook website was found to have numerous accessibility issues affecting people with hearing, vision and mobility disability. While improvements to the site have occurred in recent years, ongoing challenges remain. Fortunately, one simple but important modification to an organisation’s Facebook presence can significantly improve accessibility for disabled users – captioning.
The addition of captions to Facebook photos and videos provides meaningful context to deaf and blind users and those with hearing or vision impairments. Despite such functionality being available through Facebook, tools for labelling images and captioning videos are often overlooked during the content publishing process. This is particularly the case where organisations use programs that automatically upload content to multiple social media platforms.
By ensuring captioning of Facebook images and videos, organisations capture a larger audience, including those with disabilities. For people who are blind or vision impaired, adding a caption label to a photo allows screen readers to read out information about the photo. For those users who are deaf or hearing impaired, captioning a video provides an essential narrative to support visual content.
Twitter – Help through hashtags
While the text-based nature of Twitter would suggest an accessible interface for those with disability, Twitter received widespread criticism when assessed against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Accessibility concerns such as a lack of keyboard navigation options and font size issues resulted in the creation of independent alternative web portals to Twitter such as Easy Chirp. While such portals continue to be used, Twitter accessibility has significantly improved over time to make it usable by most people living with disability.
However, with over 500 million tweets sent per day, finding relevant content on Twitter can be daunting. To navigate through such vast content, Twitter hashtags or “#” highlight keywords which help users identify relevant information. For those with disability, the use of hashtags by organisations is particularly useful in finding information related to a specific area of interest. For communications related specifically to accessibility discussions and disability more generally, businesses and Government utilities can use the hashtags #a11y and #disability respectively.
Successful social media strategies do not end with having a social media presence. Organisations should take into consideration issues regarding web and digital accessibility when engaging in social media. By doing so, organisations encourage social inclusion, avoid potential discrimination and the risk of litigation, and encourage deeper engagement with a larger proportion of their audience.
For more information on how to ensure that what you are doing online is accessible and meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines, you can check out the Media Access Australia services website, email the Media Access Australia team or call (02) 9212 6242. The team can assist your organisation with annual web audits, digital accessibility maturity assessments, document remediation, accessibility training and more. You can watch a short video on how Media Access Australia can make what you do online accessible. An Audio Described version of the video is also available.