If you work in public health or any organization that receives government funding, you probably know about WCAG, the federally-mandated accessibility standards that every organization publishing content on the web needs to meet. But did you know that isn’t limited to your website? It includes anything you share with the public on social media, too.
Now that you know, you might be asking yourself if your social posts are ADA-friendly (that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act). Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many organizations struggle to meet the needs of individuals with visual or hearing impairments. But there are a lot of good reasons to reach 100% compliance—and a lot of straightforward ways to make your public health marketing social media posts accessible for everyone.
According to Pew Research, nowadays more Americans turn to websites and social media for news than to newspapers. With so many people getting most of their information from the web, it’s our responsibility to make that information accessible to all. At KW2, we believe that serving the public means getting the word out to everyone about important public health issues, no matter their abilities. Everyone has a right to public health communications that can impact their quality of life. Forward-thinking organizations pride themselves on building websites that meet and even exceed ADA and WGAC requirements—and your approach to social media should be no different.
Compliance is absolutely the right thing to do. But it is also the law. And if Beyoncé can be sued for non-compliance, so can you. As long as judges view the Internet as a “public space,” they’re likely to rule in favor of those who take their complaints about inaccessible sites and social media communications to the courts. Just consider these 3 facts while you calculate your organization’s legal vulnerabilities:
Ready to make sure everything you’re tweeting, uploading and posting is accessible to people who are visually or hearing impaired? Let’s talk about how to make posts accessible.
The most important skill when it comes to creating accessible social posts? Understanding alternative text, or alt text for short. It’s a written description of an image or infographic that screen reading software reads aloud to people who are visually impaired. Think of it as the visual version of closed captioning. Without it, every image on the web would be 100% invisible for millions of Americans. That’s why it’s best to use decorative images for added emphasis, and not as the main source of information in a post.
Not sure about the difference between informative and decorative images? There’s a great article from the University of Washington that can help. And Penn State’s guide to writing accurate, concise descriptions is worth checking out, too.
Use “camel case” to help screen readers pronounce hashtags and URLs correctly. (What’s the difference? #KW2Madison sounds like “Kay-Double-You-Two-Madison” while #kw2madison sounds like “Kwtwomadison.” (Try pronouncing that aloud!)
“I’m here at the Capitol building with two other panelists, standing on a huge stage in front of a crowd of about 120 people. We’re so glad you joined our webcast today!”
Unfortunately, as of 11/2019 Facebook doesn’t offer any way to add alternative text to images. So you’ll have to use your description area as the caption; don’t rely on an image to tell the story. (As of 11/2019, you can’t make images accessible using Hootsuite, either).
Here’s a quick checklist for ADA-friendly posts on Facebook:
Make your image-based posts accessible by setting image descriptions.
You can add alt text directly to any new post you create. This is particularly important on Instagram because the majority of its content is image-based, and the captions are usually used for color commentary.
To add alt text to LinkedIn images, you have to be using a desktop/laptop device. This feature is not yet available in the LinkedIn app.
Establish an organization-wide social media accessibility policy to ensure your internal stakeholders and content creators are all on the same page. To get started, ask yourself:
Once you have clear policies in place, add your new rules to your existing editorial style guide. You might even consider creating an accessibility cheat sheet for your team.
Social media tools evolve and standards can change frequently. We recommend checking out Digital.gov’s Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit every 6 months. It’s updated regularly and contains key information for government and other public agencies.
Now tell us about your accessibility challenges
There are 100,000 people who are blind or visually impaired living in Wisconsin right now. People can’t see the images in our posts, or the visuals in our videos. They rely on screen readers to make sense of the content. And those who are hearing impaired can’t rely on a soundtrack to understand what’s happening in video or audio formats.
As we share more and more information about public health and public health campaigns on social media channels, it’s important to make sure that content is accessible to all. So check out your posts, start working on an internal policy and let us know: how have you changed your social media process to be more accessible? Share your tips for achieving 100% accessibility or tell us about the digital topics your communications team wants to tackle next. We want to know. Email me to get in touch.