Social Media Accessibility Guidelines

When posting to social media as a representative of San Jose State University, consider applying some or all of the following techniques which have been compiled to help SJSU staff, faculty and students create social media content that is accessible to people with disabilities. Each platform has its own limitations when it comes to accessibility, be sure to check what accessibility each network offers.

Alternative Text Descriptions for Images

"Alt tags" and "alt descriptions," (stands for alternative text) is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user's screen. This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better rank your website. It’s important to note that alternative text is only available to screen reader users. 

Adding alt text to images is a simple and effective way to make your website more accessible. Listed below are some tips to help you write “good” alternative text descriptions: 

  1. Be specific when describing the content of the image and be sure not to editorialize. Screen readers usually cut-off alt text at 125 characters, so keep that limit in mind. 
  2. Don’t start with “image of” or “picture of.” Describe what you see in a phrase or sentence.
  3. Include text that is part of the image
  4. Don’t repeat yourself. If your caption already describes what is in the image don’t include it in the alt text. 
  5. Don’t add alt text to ‘decorative’ images

Alternative Text Descriptions for Videos

For any and all video content, you should provide captions of the audio for those who are hard-of-hearing, without hearing and who are non-native speakers. You can use closed captioning (where a user can turn them on or off) or open captions (where the text is embedded into the video and cannot be turned off).

Alternative Text Descriptions for GIFs

GIFs should be considered in the same manner as photos, if you can add alt text descriptions do so. If the platform does not offer alt text, make sure the post can be understood through its non-graphical text alone. 

Turn on or edit alt text

Here’s how you can turn on the alt text or image description function on these common social media channels:

Twitter – Profile > Settings and privacy > Accessibility > Compose image descriptions

Instagram – Instagram adds automatic alt text using object recognition technology, but you can create your own. On the “Write a caption…” screen, click Advanced Settings (at the bottom) > Write Alt Text (under Accessibility)

Facebook – Facebook also uses automatic alt text, but you can write your own when you want to provide a better description

Emojis and Emoticons

Any emojis displayed on a screen will be described by a screen reader. For example, the 👏  will be read aloud as “clapping hands.” It’s important to be considerate of our readers, so whenever you use emojis be sure to use spaces in between them and your text so that screen readers can separate between your phrasing and the emojis. 

When creating emoticons with text, consider the user's experience. For example, the visual experience of “shruggie” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  will be read aloud as: “Macron, backslash, underline, katakana, underline, slash, macron.” 

CamelCase Hashtags

Hashtags are an important component of social media posts. When authoring hashtags that are made up of multiple words, use initial capitalization, also known as CamelCase.

For example, you would write #HowISee, rather than #howisee.

Utilizing this simple technique makes the hashtag easier to read for all users and is more consumable by screen readers since their synthesized voices can recognize and pronounce individual words, and won’t garble them.