4 ways to help keep our social platform accessible

Accessibility is crucial for equality

The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, is credited for his vision of the internet as being the great equalizer of humanity. It brings people together from all over the world to share and connect. Imagine how many more diverse and interesting friends you could make if what you shared online was accessible to them. We’re fully capable of including every person in our online conversations but can mistakenly fall short. If we don’t intentionally make the effort to include, we will unintentionally exclude. Excluding people has a high cost online. It leaves people out, perpetuates inequality, and can even violate privacy when people must resort to asking for help with inaccessible digital services that should be private matters.

Web designers, developers, and content creators are all responsible for ensuring a website’s accessibility. But we as average users of social platforms also have a role to play. Help us grow our accessible social platform by keeping these 4 tips in mind when sharing content online. Together we can ensure a wider audience can participate and keep all our friends and family in the loop.

1. Use headings

Imagine having to read through a wall of text with no breaks or big headings to scan to find the passage you were looking for, or to pick back up where you left off. This doesn’t make a fun experience for anyone. Remember to use the headings from the text editor so they are a bigger size visually, but also act as headings for people using screen readers. Don’t skip heading levels such as using a heading 2 then a heading 4 next. Drop down to the next heading level only when that content relates back up to the previous heading as a subheading. If the content is an entirely new section, use the same heading level without dropping down.

2. Use lists

As with headings, it’s important to use the list tool from the text editor when creating lists. Using your own bullet points such as – or * does not offer the same benefit to screening reader users as the real list. Lists have many benefits:

  • Lists break up large blocks of content.
  • Lists are easy to remember and digest.
  • Lists can be scanned visually and navigated to quickly using a screen reader.

3. Make link text descriptive

When you link out to other sites, always link up meaningful text. Don’t use generic link text like “learn more” or “here“. It forces people to read the entire sentence the link is in to determine if this is a link they want to follow. This slows people down when visually scanning the page for links, and even more so screen reader users who often navigate by a list of links out of context with the rest of the page. Small link text such as “here” is also difficult for people with hand tremors or other motor impairments because it creates a smaller click/tap target than necessary.

Don’t use the full URL like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog. It isn’t always clear from the URL what the purpose of the link is. Links can also be quite long and the extra http www and slashes make it more difficult to read.

Concise but descriptive link text is the most helpful for everyone. Check out this Wikipedia on dogs.

Contrary to the examples above, when linking out to the same page more than once, always use the same link text in each instance. When linking to different pages, make sure each page has different unique link text.

4. Share media in multiple ways

When you post content that requires one of your five senses to be able to perceive it, remember not everyone may be able to perceive in the same way.

If you share an audio clip, some people have various degrees of hearing loss. How would that person be able to enjoy the audio? Try including a transcript, the audio file in written, the text-only format will allow Deaf and hard of hearing people interact with the content as well. This can also help people who are not able to play audio on their device or in their current situational setting. Including transcripts will also make sure the content is searchable by search engines which is an added bonus.

Also think of photos, info-graphics, memes, charts, and graphs. If someone is not able to view this content, they also benefit from a text-only version that describes what is in the image. Try describing the graphic as if you were explaining it to someone over the phone, be detailed so they can understand the purpose of the image. This text-only description of the visuals in the image can be included alongside the image for everyone to read, or as the “alt text” for the screen reader only.

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