Six ways to make your social media campaigns more accessible for people with disabilities

This blog post will help you think of ways you can make your social media campaigns more accessible for people with disabilities.

Social media can be an important way for activists to reach more people – and make campaigns more inclusive. Although many organisations and activists are constrained by what’s possible with social media platform infrastructure, there are many ways to make campaign content more accessible to a wider group of people. 

1. Use alt-text

Alt-text, internet language for ‘alternative text’, is what you write to describe exactly what’s happening in your photo. Historically, this function has been useful for search engine optimization, so search engines like Google Image can easily serve up your content when people search for related keywords. Alt-text is also useful to explain the content within an email or website in case the photo or graphic doesn’t load. The function is now available on many social media platforms too. This helps you include descriptions of the images you post so the content is accessible to people who are visually impaired and using assistive technology to read out alt-text.

A screenshot of a UNICEF Instagram post using ‘alt text’ to describe a photo for people with visual impairments. 
A screenshot of a UNICEF Instagram post using ‘alt text’ to describe a photo for people with visual impairments.

2. Include subtitles

It’s becoming more common for videos to include subtitles. This makes sense for all audiences, as according to DigiDay, as many of 85% of people are watching Facebook Video with the sound off. Subtitling has an additional benefit for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, so they can read what’s been said in the video. You can upload your own subtitles to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube using srt.files, which contain the start and end times of when the subtitle appears and up to two lines of the subtitle content.. Platforms such as YouTube and Facebook also offer artificial intelligence driven automatic subtitling, which can be improved manually through editing.  

A screenshot of a UNICEF subtitled video titled ‘Married at 15 to a 73-year-old’.
A screenshot of a UNICEF subtitled video titled ‘Married at 15 to a 73-year-old’.

3. Keep it simple

Avoid acronyms and abbreviations. Getting rid of jargon will improve accessibility for your whole audience, but is also important for readability via screen readers.

4. Diversify your platforms and types of content

Different social media platforms have different accessibility functionality. Where possible, publish content on a variety of platforms to increase the chances of different people being able to access it. The same goes for varying the type of content you publish. For example, a written blog could be supplemented with a podcast – to reach people who are visually impaired. Where possible, use other ways to access your video content. For example, UNICEF has included sign language in this Instagram TV video.

5. Simplify your links 

Long links can be onerous to listen to when read out on a screen reader for people who are visually impaired. Consider using a link shortening tool to make the links shorter. 

6. Listen

If there are accessibility issues on your social media, you will be told! Keep an eye out on your social media platforms for comments and direct messages about accessibility. Make sure people can reach you via email and phone. You may also want to consider an accessibility page on your website, which has links to the different accessibility teams within each social media company. 

What other ways have you seen social media campaigns and activists use social media in an accessible way for people with disabilities? Comment below!

Author: Samuel Waterton

Sam Waterton is a UNICEF Communications Officer in New York specialising in social media. His current campaigns advocate for the protection of children affected by conflict, natural disasters, public health emergencies and climate change. Previously, Sam worked as a Digital Editor in London at BBC Media Action. In addition to studying for a masters in Communication for Development, Sam holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations. He is interested in harnessing social media for C4D, environmental and social justice issues.

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