Digital health, like sexual health, is a form of public health.
Accessibility is just one of many facets of digital health.
- 85% of all Facebook users and 40% of all Instagram users watch videos on mute.
- 1 in 4 people in the USA have a disability.
- Deaf, Deafblind, blind, and low-vision people use social media, including Instagram and YouTube.
- People with low or no dexterity (difficulty with using hands) use social media.
- People with neurological disabilities such as migraine, stroke, epilepsy, and memory impairments use social media.
- Disabilities can impact one’s ability to understand or otherwise access social media that does not include accessibility features.
- 28 million people in the US with disabilities (or 8.5 percent of the general population) cannot engage with web content unless their needs are considered during the period of design and content creation.
- Accessible social media is the most effective approach to social media because it can be accessed and understood by the most people possible.
- Inaccessible social media risks alienating your audience and therefore, reducing your reach, impact, engagement, and potential customer base.
- Content must be inclusive and accommodating of everyone.
- Avoid long paragraphs and large blocks of text. Limit your sentences to 25 words per sentence.
- Always use line breaks/new paragraphs to create space within your written posts/captions; spreading your thoughts out make them easier to follow.
- Don’t use all capital letters. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to portray a scream. What matters is that all capital letters are very difficult to read for some forms of vision impairment and some forms of learning disability.
- Content notes, sometimes known as content warnings, are an accessibility need. Use them liberally.
Content: Language and Subject Matter
- Make sure your content (written or script) passes a readability test, which analyzes your word choices to help ensure that your target age demographic can understand them.
- Restrictions on content and subject matter did not start with FOSTA/SESTA, only increased.
- Some platforms ban the use of specific words (spoken or written) and some ban specific subject matter. Social media platforms are not transparent about what language and content is banned – and their guidelines are always changing. If a post of yours is removed and you ask for a review, you still might not get a clear answer about why your post was removed. Please go to the end of this document to read section “Bonus #2” for more information on this.
- I can’t offer you a list of banned words and content per platform as these widely have not been published due to their dynamic nature. Read the relevant TOS/AUP for each platform and pay attention when they notify you that the rules have changed. Frequently, each TOS/AUP is dense and full of legal jargon. Try using a tool such as ToS;DR (Terms of Service Didn’t Read) to understand some TOS/AUP.
- Remember, hashtags trend and specific hashtag popularity waxes and wanes, so hashtags generally won’t help with long term engagement strategies. They’re best for topical content.
- Some social media platforms have banned search by or use of certain hashtags, so using them won’t help you reach an audience. It may also cause the AI to target your account for review, which may result in posts being removed, shadowbanning, and account deletion.
- On Instagram, banned hashtags are those that were linked to a reported or flagged post. When the post gets removed it also bans every hashtag used on that post, which triggers a shadowban of all posts (and I mean all – past, present, and future) which contain those hashtags.
- While there are some hashtags (that haven’t been banned) which denote community, those communities are not necessarily kink or sex related. Kink and sex hashtags are banned in particular, but lots and lots of other hashtags have been and get banned, too. For example, on Instagram, #Alone is banned.
- If you want to not have to worry about banned hashtags, you have a few options: 1) For Instagram and Facebook, use MetaHashtag’s Instagram Banned Hashtags Checker every time you want to make a post with hashtags. 2) Stop using hashtags. 3) Move to a platform with a more liberal hashtag policy, such as Tumblr and Mastodon.
- Limit hashtags to two per post. Not only will your audience thank you, but the AI within each social media platform will bless you. Hashtag limits on each platform change, but just because you can include more than two hashtags, it doesn’t mean the social media platform will let people access your content for each (or any) hashtag.
- For hashtags, Use CamelCase, which is where you capitalize each word, or snake_case, which is where you separate words with an underscore; both of these techniques are easier to read for low vision, learning disabilities, and screen readers.
- Don’t use alternative spellings or phonetic spelling. You think this is getting around “the algorithm” but it isn’t – the algorithm is AI; it learns and it learns quickly. Anything you come up with, the AI will learn what you really mean and thus might take down your post, put it behind a “sensitive content” warning, shadowban you, or ban your account entirely.
- Don’t use Unicode, period. What is Unicode? It’s the characters that people use to make their text bold, italicized, and other fonts. This makes text harder to read for humans, not more clear. Additionally, assistive technologies such as screen readers do not interpret these characters as text, but as mathematical symbols, therefore these would be read aloud letter-by-letter as “mathematical bold capital H.”
- Don’t use symbols in the place of words and messages as this can confuse some people and definitely confuses screen readers. For example, don’t use “this = that;” spell out what you mean with words.
Call to Actions
- If you’re telling your audience to do something such as to swipe up or to click on a link, you must spell aloud/ say the URL and, preferably, provide an accessible way to access the URL, such as by using a service like Linktree or AllMyLinks. Remember: If someone can’t see or otherwise access the actionable element of your post, they can’t follow through on the action. This means that social media elements like “Stories” on Instagram are largely inaccessible.
- Do yourself a favor and have any links coming from your social media to your own content be to content that is accessible, too. It’s frustrating to go from the ability to access to having your access denied or hindered.
- If using an emoji, an image description must be included such as [eggplant emoji] because: 1) Not everyone can see well enough to depict tiny emojis; 2) Emojis mean different things to different people across cultures, ages, geography, and experiences – the message you are trying to convey may be lost; and 3) Screen readers describe the emoji – so if you have a repeated emoji, the description just gets repeated multiple times. People with screen readers will frequently skip this, so if you have actual content or a call to action after your multiple emojis, people may miss that content.
- Avoid using emoji and punctuation marks in your social media username (the part where it asks your name, not the part where you select a username unique to the platform) as each emoji and punctuation mark is described aloud by screen readers – which can take longer for the screen readers to relate than the content of some posts!
- Remember to always use emojis in a limited manner, meaning, do not use a particular emoji more than once (don’t repeat the same emoji in a row). People using screen readers will often skip content like this entirely.
- Use spaces between emojis so they are easier to decipher and easier to hear with a screen reader (which will pause for a space; without a space, the description becomes run-on).
- Alt text, which is short for alternative text, is only available to screen reader technology, which means it’s usually invisible to those of us who don’t use screen readers. When a page doesn’t load and you instead see words that describe the missing image – that’s alt text.
- Use the alt text options some social media platforms offer but don’t limit your descriptions to the alt text – they must also go in captions or subsequent tweets because not everyone can access the alt features in social media.
- Pre-populated alt text (alt text generated or retrieved by the platform) is generally not helpful. Frequently, it is outright wrong. Write your own alt text.
- Tips for writing alt text:
- Use brevity but make sure you cover all the important elements to understand the image. More encompassing descriptions can go in the image description.
- Include the names of people and/or their identities if they are important to the image’s context.
- It’s important to include text which may be within your image word-for-word in your alt text as well as in your image descriptions. If the text in the image is small, low-contrast, or low resolution, those with low vision who don’t use screen readers likely won’t be able to use it – hence the importance of including the text in alt text and image descriptions.
- Alt text character limits:
- Websites: None.
- Facebook: None.
- Instagram: None.
- Twitter: 1,000 characters.
- LinkedIn: 300 characters.
Images and Their Descriptions
- Remember that people have different visual access needs. Some require high contrast, some require low contrast, some require dark mode, some require large font, some require even larger font. You can use tools to create graphics that try to find a middle ground; you can duplicate your content (especially if using graphics) to have different versions in each slide.
- Image descriptions are important to include in addition to alt text. Image descriptions help people understand the context of an image by describing elements that you, the content creator, deem important, and which some in your audience may not be able to fully appreciate (either because of vision impairments or due to missing context).
- If you have visual elements in your videos or your graphics, these must be described if they relate to the content. If they are solely decorative, they need not be described unless they somehow further the imagery (such as arrows to symbolize “go forward” or “go backward.”
- In video, they must be described aloud during the video as well as described in the captions/transcript.
- In graphics, they must be described in the caption/post and alt text.
- This is particularly important if imagery is a graph, a chart, or other imagery that advances the narrative. Don’t just say “a photo” or “a graph;” the contents and what they convey must be described for people who cannot see them.
- ASCII art is common, particularly on Twitter, but there’s no way of providing alt text for it. Therefore, take a screenshot of your ASCII art and post that image with alt text.
- When using text emoticons (pretty old school, but some still use it!) such as the “shruggie,” realize that all text, including these creations, will be read aloud by a screen reader as the individual characters. For example: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ becomes “macron, backslash, underline, left parenthesis, katakana, right parenthesis, underline, slash, macron.”
- Know your demographic. 1) Younger people think animated gifs are generally passé. 2) With many gifs, the context is relevant for the audience to understand what the gif symbolizes, even if the gif has text. Make sure there is an image description that goes with each gif to make sure it’s understood, even if an image description seems to repeat what’s in the gif. (The point for accessibility purposes is to repeat it so that everyone can understand it.)
- Tips for writing image descriptions:
- An image description describes an image with greater detail than does alt text..
- Image descriptions are where you describe color, location of elements in your image, what people are wearing and what they look like, etc.
- Some disabled people are beginning to lean toward tactile image descriptions, which describe less of what is seen and more of what the experience of the image may be. For example, a photo of someone frowning may be described as “The lower lip curls under as commentary regarding the appointment of Liz Truss; sourness emanates from the portrait.”
- Put your image descriptions in consistent places within your social media, such as always in the caption/post, always in the first comment, or as a Twitter reply. With consistency, your audience will know where to find the descriptions.
- If you have audio or video with sound other than your voice, you must provide an audio description for it. This means describing it verbally (aloud), in captioning if there’s a video), and within the transcript.
- If there is a loud or sudden noise, a wet noise, or other noises which may be jarring, upsetting, or activating, be sure to include a content note both verbally and if in video, visually, well before the noise happens.
- If you’re using music, describe the style of music and bonus points if you include the name of the creator, the song title, and where to find the creator and their song in your transcription notes and captions.
- Don’t use flashing or strobe lights or light effects in your videos.
- Don’t use jump scares.
- Captions increase your video’s reach and engagement! It’s not just d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks that use them, but people in public spaces, people in shared living spaces, people in noisy spaces, etc.
- All videos must have closed captions (where the user can turn the captions on or off and also resize the captions as needed) and transcripts of the spoken words in the caption of the post.
- Make sure your captioning is centered in the horizontal and vertical middle of the video so that the captioning does not get cut off when shared across platforms or when videos are shown in the Instagram feed as posts (versus Reels).
- Blind and Low Vision people do use Instagram and other visual methods of communication.
- All video and audio must have audio and video image descriptions. In a video, these are part of the closed captioning. In audio, they are spoken aloud. In both formats, audio and video descriptions must be a part of transcripts.
- Even live video must have captions; most platforms let you use auto-captioning for live video but auto-captioning lags and frequently has mistakes. Your best bet is to hire a captioner, but if you can’t, make sure to turn on those auto-captions!
- How to add video captions
- There are numerous free and paid apps for all operating systems that allow you to record your video within the app, edit the auto-transcription as needed, and then export your video to several social media platforms.
- Instagram uses a Stories sticker that auto-transcribes your audio and lets you edit it if there are mistakes. Remember to check for mistakes and correct them before posting!
- For Instagram’s IGTV/Reels, you must enable auto-captioning in your Instagram account settings. On IGTV/Reels, you can’t edit your mistakes using the native transcription feature.
- In TikTok, you can upload a pre-recorded video or record directly into the TikTok app, then from your editing page, select auto captions, after which you can edit the captions for errors and even visual style.
- Facebook and LinkedIn do not have auto-captioning. To caption videos for these platforms, use a third party app (as mentioned above) or hire a captioner for recorded video and CART for live video.
Bonus Round #1: D/deaf Outreach
- Up your game and learn the sign language appropriate for your target demographic. Include yourself (or if you must, hire someone else) signing in your videos. Deaf people across the world will thank you.
Bonus Round #2: Why Censorship is Allowed and How to Avoid It
- Many, many, many people work as content moderators at each social media company. Each removed post is reviewed by a different human who gets to decide on your post’s fate. What guides their decision?
- Each platform has an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy; often worked into a Terms of Service policy or Community Guidelines), which is dynamic and open to interpretation by employees at each company. Just as in 1964’s Supreme Court case, Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart opined in concurrence with the majority decision about pornography, “I know it when I see it,” each employee and each platform get to decide for themselves what is acceptable and what will be banned.
- When you sign up to use these social media platforms, you agree to their TOS (Terms of Service); part of what you agree to is not violating their AUPs. When their TOS/AUP get updated, most platforms (but not all) will notify all users. Most users just click the “I accept button” without reading what has changed. Every time you accept, you are agreeing that in exchange for use of their platform, you will abide by their rules (TOS/AUP).
- TOS/AUP are enforceable agreements. When you violate them, companies have every right to restrict or end your use of service.
- All. Companies. Do. This.
- In the United States, it is the company’s legal right, as a private service and as a private company, to enforce their own rules.
- This is not a violation of free speech or of First Amendment rights.
- Regarding free speech, the First Amendment says that Congress and other forms of government must provide “substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.”
- The First Amendment protects our speech from government interference.
- The First Amendment does not make protections for free speech within private businesses.
- You might think to equate a social media platform with a newspaper and the newspaper’s right to freedom of speech via freedom of the press, but consider: A newspaper may reject anything you want to publish, just as a social media platform may reject anything you want to publish.
- If you don’t want companies to refuse you service, don’t violate their TOS/AUP. If you don’t want to worry about possibly violating TOS/AUP, you have options: 1) Stop using their service. 2) Work with groups such as the Free Speech Coalition ↗ and the Electronic Frontier Foundation ↗ to change laws. 3) Self-publish.
- Yes, social media can be self-published by joining a distributed social network; also known as a federated social network (aka “the fediverse”).
- The most popular platform in the fediverse is Mastodon, but there are others such as GNU Social, diaspora, Friendica, and more.
- If you’re on one platform, you can use that platform to “follow” and communicate with people on the other fediverse platforms because it’s an open network.
- Yes, Mastodon, in a limited way, still has TOS/AUP – but they are specific to each “instance” (think of an instance as the server or servers which host the social network) that hosts that portion of the fediverse.
- There are thousands of instances of Mastodon currently active.
- If you really want to be able to say and publish whatever you want, you’ll need to host your own instance with an internet service provider that will let you say and publish whatever you want. Or, you can find a currently existing instance with TOS/AUP that is amenable to your content.
- Remember, social media platforms are NOT a form of what is known as public accommodations, which is a US legal designation of facilities, both publicly and privately owned, which are used by the general public. Public accommodations cannot discriminate under federal law. But as social media is NOT a public accommodation, businesses can discriminate as they choose.
- Social media platforms and other companies that provide services, offline and off, all have TOS/AUP, though they may be called other things.
- When you sign a lease, that’s an equivalent; when you sign up for a Netflix or BlueApron, that’s an equivalent; when you sign paperwork to place an ad in a print publication, that’s an equivalent.
- All these businesses and services – including the print publication – can deny you access to their services. Under US business law that is their right.
- Under US law, business rights generally trump individual rights.
- Alt Text Guide – Written by Screen Reader User ↗
- How to write alt text for memes ↗
- How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the visually impaired ↗ (by Perkins School for the Blind)
- Alt Text for Gifs ↗
- Alt Text Blunders ↗
- Context, Race and Gender in Alt Text and Image Description ↗ (Located halfway down the page)
- How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for Instagram ↗ (also by Perkins School for the Blind)
- Add audio description with CaptionSync ↗
- Innovation in Audio Description ↗
- YouDescribe ↗
- All About Audio Description ↗
- Rev.com ↗
- Go Transcript ↗
- Scribie ↗
- Bonus: Very large list of other captioning service vendors ↗
DIY Captioning Apps
- MixCaptions ↗ (Mac and Android)
- Kaptioned ↗ (Mac and Android; $9.99/month)
- AutoCap ↗ (Mac and Android)
- Amara ↗ (web interface; free+)
- Accessible Design Guide for Graphic Designers – 2021 Edition ↗
- Color and Graphics ↗
- Inclusive design for social media ↗
- MetaHashtag’s Instagram Banned Hashtags Checker ↗
- Planning, creating and publishing accessible social media campaigns ↗
- Link shorteners: the long and short of why you shouldn’t use them ↗
- Inclusive Design: Bring Web Accessibility to Your Nonprofit ↗
- Equity Screen for Content Creators ↗
Other: Terms of Service
ToS;DR analysis ↗; TOS ↗; Guidelines ↗; Privacy ↗; Safety ↗.
ToS;DR analysis ↗.
ToS;DR analysis ↗; Community Guidelines ↗; Privacy Center ↗; Safety ↗.
ToS;DR analysis ↗; Privacy ↗.
ToS;DR analysis ↗; TOS ↗; Privacy ↗.
ToS;DR analysis ↗; TOS ↗; Privacy ↗.
Caz Killjoy’s Accessibility for Social Media Censorship Avoidance © 2022 by Caz Killjoy is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International ↗
This license requires that reusers give credit to the creator. It allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form and for noncommercial purposes only.
BY: Credit must be given to me, the creator.
NC: Only noncommercial use of my work is permitted. Noncommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.
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