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Social Media Platform Accessibility Recommendations

A hand holding a smartphone. Like and love buttons go up from the phone.

I wrote about social media accessibility tips for those who make posts. However, there are parts of the platform that are responsibility of developers.

I notice 3 main issues with social media platforms:

  • Lack of an indication for image descriptions.
  • Lack of an editing feature for auto captioning.
  • Lack of text overlap control.

Lack of an indication for image descriptions

Despite ongoing reminders to add alternative descriptions to images, many content authors are still not aware of it or keep forgetting about it. It would be good for all social media platforms to pop up a box every time an author makes a post. It can help them remember to add alternative descriptions every time they share an image.

Another issue is that you cannot tell if an image is accessible in the post before you share it. I cannot tell on my iPhone if an image is accessible. Interestingly, VoiceOver shows captions on MacBook, but not on iPhone or iPad. The only way for me to determine image accessibility is to check the source code in a browser on my MacBook. It’s not very convenient.

I spoke to Twitter about this a year ago. Looks like they are just starting to offer a feature to identify an accessible image and to pop up the description which is great. I hope other platforms follow their suit.

Some platforms allow you to add alternative descriptions to images only on the desktop but not on a mobile device as it’s the case with LinkedIn.

I would love to see all social media platforms to:

  • Send reminders to content creators to add alternative text every time they share an image and to add a link to an instruction on how to do this;
  • Show an “alt” icon in an image corner to indicate it’s accessible;
  • Pop up a window upon clicking the “alt” icon to show the alt description content.

Please offer an ability to describe images not only on desktop, but also on mobile. For example, as of this writing, LinkedIn allows to do it only on desktop. I’ve spoken to them about this for a year and still haven’t seen them offering an option for mobile.

Lack of editing feature for auto captioning

I see more social media platforms offering auto captions and some offering an option to upload a caption file or write captions yourself. That’s great! However, many of them do not offer an editing feature.

Auto captions are useless without an editing feature. It’s like writing a book without proper editing and designing it to make it look more polished and easy to read.

As explained in the video, auto captions cause cognitive dissonance for deaf people in the same way it’s difficult for you to listen to poor audio.

Also, often auto captions overlap open captions (that are burned in a video). There’s no easy way to disable auto captions temporarily – you would have to go back to the platform settings which is not very convenient.

I would advise all social media platforms to offer the following options to:

  • Enable auto captions and edit them;
  • Type captions yourself;
  • Upload a professional caption file.

Also offer an easy way to turn off auto captions if open captions are present in a video. And enough space in the post to include a transcript.

Lack of text overlap control 

A post may have an image with a good quality description or a video with good quality captions and a transcript. However, it’s frustrating when an image or a video is covered by buttons and post text elements (descriptions, likes, shares, comments, etc).

When you see a post with an embedded video and want to see captions, it’s hard to see them when buttons or post text elements overlap them.

Also, there are different video sizes for different social media platforms. One platform may show a video in a rectangle shape while another in a square shape. It means that open captions are often cropped out and make it impossible to read.

I would advise social media platforms the following:

  • To ensure that post buttons and text elements don’t overlap an image or a video;
  • To position those elements outside of the image or video area;
  • To automatically resize a video to fit inside a shape to avoid caption cropping.

The list is not exhaustive – there are many more issues that I experience with social media platforms.

If your organization wants to improve accessibility and usability of your social media platform, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to discussing more suggestions with you further.

Published in Accessibility

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