Social media

How to be accessible

Whether you use social media for work or to chat with friends, you are bound to create content for everyone. That includes people using screen readers.

Be careful with emojis

When you use an emoji, screen readers read its unicode name. This is the description of the emoji and it can be different from what you expect. For example, 🙏 is read as "folded hands" not a high five. Make sure to check the emoji's description in the Emojipedia before using it. You'll find it in the technical information.

Emojis can also mean different things in different places. For instance, 🤘 means rock on in many places. But it also implies the horns, a symbol for infidelity in mediterranean countries.

If you use a clapping hands emoji three times, with dark skin tone, the screen reader will read the unicode name three times.

It's best to avoid a series of emojis in a post. Screen readers will read the unicode names out and repeat them as many times as you've used them. Also, prefer using emojis at the end of a post rather than in the middle of a sentence.

Image description or alt-text?

On social media too you need to describe images with alt-text. This is important for screen readers to describe images with important information. But it also works for anyone when the image hasn't loaded.

You can also add an image description at the end of your posts. Not everyone experiences disability in the same way. People who are visually impaired don't always use screen readers. You can see an example on one of Meryl Evans' posts on LinkedIn. Image description allows you to use more than the alt-text 125 characters. Whenever necessary, use both the alt-text and the image description.

LinkedIn post with an image, the content of the image description at the bottom of the post and the alt-text set up.

#AboutHashtags

Each word making up your hashtag must be easy to read by people and assistive technologies. You can use a simple trick by using Title Case. Example: #ThisIsEasierToRead vs #thisisnotsoeasytoread. Developers call it Pascal Case. But this trick doesn't work for some dyslexic people. Capital letters and lowercase are usually hard to distinguish for them. Also, keep in mind that Instagram will automatically format hashtags in lowercase.

Don't fake bold and italic text

LinkedIn post with fake style made with Unicode letters that screen readers can't read.

Although they make words stand out, faux bold, italic or columns don't work for people using screen readers. Screen readers will entirely skip those words, as they are not actual words but Unicode symbols. If you create faux columns, screen readers will still read lines after lines.

More resources

If you want to learn more about this topic, I strongly recommend Alexa Heinrich's work. Her platform Accessible Social is a free resource and education hub that shares best practices for creating accessible social media content.

Publication date

May 2024

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