How can your charity make its social media content more accessible?

It was ‘World Emoji Day’ recently, and we came across a fantastic post from the RNIB on Instagram that really got us thinking about our use of emojis and how they impact accessibility on social media for screen reader users.
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It was ‘World Emoji Day’ recently, and we came across a fantastic post from the RNIB on Instagram that really got us thinking about our use of emojis. We love an emoji, those fun little illustrations can’t add a spark of personality. We’re often to be found to be signing off with a bear. BUT we are also very passionate about accessibility and constantly trying to educate ourselves (and our clients) about how to improve.

Helping you to be more accessible

We know our stuff when it comes to working with a charity to ensure their website is accessible. Designing to be inclusive and then ensuring people can personalise their experience to make a website fully accessible to their particular needs. You can read more about that here. A charity can also rely on us to design inclusive printed materials, but how about when you’re interacting with your supporters or users on social media? So, apart from putting into practice the things we have learnt from RNIB, we did a bit more research. Below you’ll find some handy tips to help improve your accessibility on social media.

There are estimated to be over 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. Social media is such a powerful marketing tool for any charity that it’s important to be as accessible as possible, otherwise, you could alienate a huge proportion of your potential supports/users. 

As I mentioned earlier, we love emojis, but the RNIB really put it in perspective what a nightmare they can be for those using screen readers. You can take a look at the RNIB post here. In short, it was explaining how screen reader users struggle with text that has too many emojis within it. It cited a Dunkin’ Donuts post where they used a donuts icon quite a few times, by quite a few I mean hundreds! So for a screen reader they will hear the following: 

“Hey donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut donut (nd so on….)

I don’t think you truly appreciate it until you hear the audio, so please check out the RNIB post.

And it’s becoming a bit of a trend. When the Threads platform launched, a lot of brands started using emoji repetition, maybe in a bid to seem less sales’y. But for screen users, it will just be very frustrating!

But hold on, what is a screen reader user? 

Simply put a screen reader is a piece of assertive technology that helps people who are blind or have a visual impairment (this includes colour blindness) to access and interact with digital content. 

And what the heck is ‘assertive technology’ 

Well, assistive technology (AT) is any device, software, or equipment used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. It spans four areas, one of which is Visual as we’ve mentioned, but it also also includes:

  • Auditory: People who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Motor: People who have limited fine motor control, muscle slowness,
    or tremors and spasms
  • Cognitive: People who have learning disabilities, memory impairment,
    attention disorders, or difficulty with problem-solving and logic.

So what can you do to improve your accessibility on social media?

When it comes to your charity’s social media, there are quite a few things we can do to aid the experience of screen reader users.

Tip 1 – limit emojis 

Use one or two per post (because a screen reader will read out every single emoji!). Don’t put them between each word or use them one after the other. 

Also don’t use an emoji as a replacement for a word. Why? Because a screen reader’s audible description might not match the visual or your interpretation. So it’s best to avoid using them to convey your core message, otherwise, it could get massively lost in translation!

Tip 2 – title case your hashtags

Capitalising the first letter of each word in hashtags allows the screen reader software to read words out separately.

Tip 3 – add image descriptions

When posting your image, make sure you add image descriptions so everyone can enjoy your photos. You usually find it under ‘Advanced’ settings and then under ‘Accessibility’. You should also include your description in the post.

The subject of accessibility can often feel overwhelming, but we should all try harder to make the world a more inclusive place. Your charity might not get it right every time, but taking the time to learn more and implement better practices where ever you can is a good start. We are learning all the time and know it’s something that needs to be constantly worked on. 

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