Accessibility matters in social media. Because they are designed to reach a large audience, social media posts typically reach individuals with disabilities. In addition to the broad reach of social media, it is ever changing — an accessible social media post today is not necessarily accessible tomorrow. For these reasons, it is important to build accessibility into the process of your social media strategy.
One very helpful standard for doing so is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA. In addition to following the technical recommendations of WCAG 2.1 AA, it may also be helpful for those who create social media content to pragmatically think about how the following individuals would access their content:
- Someone who is unable to see or has reduced vision
- Someone who is unable to hear or is hard of hearing
- Someone who has limited dexterity and cannot use a mouse or keyboard
Tips for more inclusive content
Livestreamed and posted video and audio clips must contain accurate captions that are synced with the media. If using artificial intelligence (AI) to caption (such as YouTube or Facebook’s auto captions), it is important to know that captions are only accurate 85-90% of the time. For this reason, it is important to ensure accuracy by reviewing the content and editing any AI captions as needed prior to posting. Helpful tips include:
- Captions must include dialogue, important background sounds, (ex. <applause> or <buzzing>) and speaker identification.
- Captions should not exceed three lines on the screen.
- Default size for captions should be 22 pt.
- The last caption frame should be removed during long silent intervals.
If hosting the video/audio clips on a USC website, your social media post should additionally link to the website to aid in accessibility
Subtitled videos do not meet accessibility standards
While subtitles and captions are similar, it’s important to note that they are not the same. Subtitles are designed for hearing population and English learners— they provide wording only and do not communicate exact spoken word, background sound, or speaker identification. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, videos MUST be captioned to be accessible.
Captioning on Youtube
YouTube supports captions and transcripts using auto caption. Important: YouTube captions are not completely accurate and should be edited. View the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to add captions in YouTube.
To learn more about adding subtitles and captions in videos, view YouTube’s support article.
To be accessible, images that are posted should have alternative text (alt text) descriptions, which describe the image using text so that individuals who use screen readers are able to access the content.
- Provide an indication that a link in a post is video, audio, or a photo by using [Video], [Audio], or [Photo].
- Alternative text should be descriptive, conveying the content and functionality of the image. For example:
- Weak alt text: Female at USC
- Strong alt text: President Folt standing in front of USC’s Tommy Trojan while smiling and holding up two fingers to symbolize “Fight On!”
Adding alternative text on Instagram
Here’s how to add alternative text on Instagram:
- Choose the photo then select “Next.”
- Select “Advanced Settings.”
- Select “Write Alt Text”.
- Write your text in the text box, then select “Done.”
To learn more about adding alt text on Instagram, visit the Instagram Help Center.
People with low vision may not see the full range of colors. When posting on social media, check your images and text to ensure that it has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. If you’re unsure, test your color palette with a tool such as the TPGI colour contrast checker.
#CamelCase or PascalCase
Capitalizing the first letter of every word provides access to individuals who use screen readers due to visual impairment or blindness. When writing for social media, hashtags should always be at the end of your posts.
Descriptive or shortened hyperlinks
- Whenever possible, make sure the link is descriptive in nature and not a long list of code (numbers/letters) as this helps individuals to understand where the link will take them.
- Avoid using phrases like “click here” or “read more” without an additional descriptor as it is difficult for individuals using screen readers to understand where the link is taking them.
- Links should be indicated by more than color alone. You can add [Link] prior to the actual link as an indicator.
If a link will open a new window, indicate that in the text. For example: “Click here to read more about President Folt’s address (opens in new window)” or “President Folt’s address (opens in new window).”
- Limit your use of emojis in posts as screen readers are unable to read the image or intent.
- If using emojis, use at the end of a sentence only and use a descriptive word prior to the emoji. (i.e., Smile<emoji>)
Best Practices by Platform
Social media platforms are constantly developing new accessibility features to make content more inclusive. Please find links to accessibility pages below for popular platforms where you’ll find information on their latest news, updates, and technologies.
For university social media accessibility guidelines, visit USC’s identity guidelines page.
Some pages on this website may contain links to third party sites not operated by the University of Southern California. These sites may not adhere to WCAG 2.X standards. USC is not responsible for the content and accessibility of those sites, their partners, or advertisers.