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Include everyone in your social media

Recently a tweet by Rob Long @_Red_Long went viral. What was the topic, you ask? Accessibility on Twitter.

Rob Long tweet

We talk a lot about gender equality and the importance of diversity in the workplace but there is a much-needed voice that can be more challenging to get across, even or especially on social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – that of people with visual or hearing impairments.

There are systematic restrictions to inclusivity in using these online platforms, which are being worked on by the developers behind them, such as Twitter enabling users to add descriptions to images once the setting is activated (see above) and YouTube automatically adding captions to videos under 10 minutes long. However, it is up to users to be inclusive within the parameters enabled by the online platforms.

With some insight, like the fact that some people rely on screen readers for text including tweets and Instagram posts, there are simple things we can do to be inclusive. One such action is to follow the camel case when writing hashtags – capitalising the first letter of each word. It makes the difference between the screen reader pronouncing “mlkday” and “M L K day” (#MLKDay) for example.

Rob’s tweet, as seen above, refers to the second medium of Twitter, images. Many Twitter posts are enhanced by, or even rely on the image that is shared with them; but for people with visual impairments the impact can only be shared if Twitter’s default settings are overridden. As Rob explains, if people activate the pictured setting on their Twitter account they’ll be able to add descriptions to their images that screen readers will be able to share with those who need them.

The most meaningful change to occur is the one in users’ mindsets. When users are more mindful of how they can make content more accessible, everyone will have a more fulfilling experience using social media. Sharing content with a broader range of people could lead to not only more interactions, but a greater variety of opinions and perspectives being shared which is, in essence, what social media is about.

These lessons can also be applied to workplace environments, to really work on both the D and I of D&I.