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Being more inclusive of those with disabilities on social channels

There are thousands of blogs out there that talk about the best way to use social media—from how to format your posts to handling customer complaints and even words you should or shouldn’t use to get around those pesky algorithms. However, something you don’t often see is how to make it more inclusive for those with disabilities, especially those who are blind or visually impaired.

The first thing we need to consider is how do the blind and visually impaired use social media? People with visual impairments are usually using their devices zoomed in or, like people who are completely blind, they are using screen readers to engage with social posts. Now, sighted people might not think they are familiar with screen readers but in this age of technology, we all are. Typically, we just call them Siri or Alexa.

These “personal assistants” were actually created with the blind and visually impaired in mind, and now we all benefit from them. The screen reader is designed to follow a site’s layout from top to bottom—and although you can’t control how the social platform is laid out, you can make sure your text is formatted clearly and concisely.

Other things that will help the screen reader work effectively include using proper grammar and punctuation, avoiding abbreviations and lingo, and using jokes or puns sparingly. Proper punctuation gives the “assistant’s” voice a stopping point, making it easier for the listener to understand. Avoiding abbreviations and lingo help keep the voice from tripping over the text. A couple good examples of things to beware of are initialisms such as BTW (by the way) or FYI (for your information). Jokes and puns are a great way to spice up your post but just like with text messaging, it can be hard to convey the emotion or context behind it. So tread lightly. Another thing worth mentioning, especially if you are using Instagram or Twitter, is to make sure you include your hashtags underneath your copy as their own separate line as opposed to within the sentence.

Many of these tips go against what you’ve already learned about social media, but when it comes to the blind and visually impaired, imagery is only a secondary support. I’m not saying you shouldn’t post engaging images and video, but the words need to be the priority. This also means that a best practice to be inclusive is describing the image or video you are posting in brackets at the bottom of the post. For example, if you post a really adorable video of a cat playing with a child, then at the end of your copy you would include: “[VIDEO: A white, fluffy cat having fun playing with a child.]” You should also make sure all images have alternative text and any videos that you produce include closed captioning.

Lastly, listening to your audience is a great way to make sure you are posting in a way that is easy for them to read. So if you get messages or feedback regarding your posts—thank the sender and take it as a learning lesson.

Being inclusive might take a little extra thought and work when posting, but that doesn’t mean you should let your posts become stale. These best practices are not designed to make social media boring. Don’t be afraid to have fun!any

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