The digital world, much like the real world, should be an inclusive place. With over three billion active social media users spending an average of more than two hours a day on social platforms, according to GlobalWebIndex, it’s essential that social media platforms are accessible to those with disabilities.
There are 61 million adults in the U.S. that live with a disability, the CDC reports, which is over one quarter of the U.S. population. Thankfully, accessibility has become a priority for each of the major social platforms, yet most social users, and many financial institution marketers, aren’t aware of the features that are built-in to each platform to make a more accessible experience. This is especially true in regard to screen readers — software programs that allow blind or visually impaired consumers to read online text.
Here we briefly describe eight ways financial institution’s marketing and social media staff can create an experience that not only complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but is more inclusive for a large segment of consumers.
Tip 1: Optimize Your Institution’s Facebook Posts for ADA Compliance
Every day, Facebook users share billions of photos. In 2016 Facebook introduced Automatic Alternative Text (AAT). Since then, this object recognition technology has improved and Facebook continues to prioritize making their experience more inclusive.
When you are posting to Facebook, you can always override the automatic alternative text by choosing options and “Change Alt Text” on the image. Social media posters can also add and update captions on Facebook videos. Facebook has provided a great page for accessibility-related topics here.
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Tip 2: Create an ADA-Conforming Instagram Presence
Instagram, owned by Facebook, also has automatic alt text technology to provide a visual description of an uploaded image for those with visual impairments. Your social media managers will likely want to replace this automatic text with a better description of the image for screen readers.
When posting an image on Instagram, within Advanced Settings, tap “Write Alt text” to change the text. If an image has already been posted, clicking “Edit,” then “Edit Alt Text” provides this same ability.
Tip 3: Accessibility Options for Your Institution’s Twitter Account
Twitter allows users to customize accessibility options by going into Settings > General > Accessibility. There are options for VoiceOver, Interaction, Vision and Motion. When creating a tweet with an image, click Alt and check the box next to “Image Description.” Then when you create a tweet each image will feature an “Add Description” button. Unlike the other platforms, once set you cannot edit a description.
Tip 4: Optimizing Your YouTube Posts for ADA Compliance
If your site is ADA conformant, you likely are aware that your embedded videos also need transcripts and closed captioning. Many institutions use YouTube for video hosting, which has an automatic closed captioning feature. However, that feature is notoriously flawed. While videos will have an automatic transcript, this should be closely reviewed and edited by posters to ensure transcript accuracy. Clicking “Transcriptions” within the YouTube Studio allows you to have this level of editing control. Note that videos uploaded prior to 2019 have a slightly different process.
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Tip 5: Understanding LinkedIn Accessibility Features
When adding images, videos, slides or other rich media to your institution’s LinkedIn posts, you have the ability to add alt text by clicking the “Add description” option on the top right on the image before posting. LinkedIn may automatically add alt text to images that don’t have it. Note that this conformance feature is only available on desktop devices, so unfortunately you won’t see any of these options on the mobile app or mobile devices.
A plan should be in place to have social managers conduct regular ADA scans to avoid compliance issues and negative user experiences.
Additional Tips and Best Practices for Accessibility
To maximize the social media user experience for people that rely on screen readers, it’s important that financial marketers follow a few additional best practices as they are optimizing their social media accounts. Many of these practices also can support a robust search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Tip 6: Optimize your business profile. Your institution’s profile should be complete for many reasons, but it should be written in a way that’s friendly for screen readers. Take a fresh look at your business profile and make sure there is no confusing jargon and that it can be easily read by a screen reader.
Tip 7: Use URL shorteners. Marketers often use URL shorteners for tracking purposes, but an additional benefit of shorteners like Bit.ly and Hootsuite’s Owl.ly is that they create more readable URLs that can make it easier for screen readers to read aloud, as well as help with usability. Additionally, the link description should help users understand where they are going, so avoid terms like “click here” and “read more” and instead use descriptive phrases that help a person using assistive technology to know what to expect.
Tip 8: Make hashtags more readable. To make hashtags easier to read, capitalize the first letter of each word (e.g., #PhotoOfTheDay).
Your financial institution’s online presence is more vital than ever and a brand that is sensitive to the needs of all audiences will go a long way toward creating or maintaining a positive brand impression.