Social media accessibility is an incredibly important tool in modern society. Whether you choose to partake or not, for many people, it’s a critical means for socialising, planning events, connecting with family internationally, engaging in debate and finding jobs. However what’s largely unknown it that social media can be extremely inaccessible for people with disabilities.
Gian Wild is the Director of AccessibilityOz. She has worked in accessibility industry since 1998. Her major achievements include: the very first Australian accessible web site; the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games; her six years active membership in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group; accessibility reviews of public and private web sites; conference and seminar presentations; judging web awards and the development of accessibility toolkits.
She spoke at Codemotion Rome 2019 about the issue of accessibility and social media.
Disabilities are not always visible or permanent
Gian explained that many disabilities are not visible and may not be permanent and how they can affect anybody: “I’ve got a staff member who had RSI from working in a really bad location on-site at a client site for a few months. She couldn’t use a mouse for six months. I had another client who had a severe asthma attack was on corticosteroids. And the side effects for that was a kind of shake or tremor. And she couldn’t use a mobile or a tablet. So temporary disabilities happened to us all. The next person that actually needs an accessible website might be you yourself.”
55% of the staff at Accessibility Oz have a disability and the organisation develops extensive disability access resources, access audits, best practices for mobile and web developers, and training her staff had a disability and her organisation do with accessibility from audits to building websites and training
Social media is valuable for people with disabilities.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is almost double the unemployment rate for people without disabilities at 10.2%. The percentage of recruiters who use LinkedIn is 95%.
The percentage of HR managers that have reconsidered hiring a candidate after looking at social media is 55%. Gian explains “So if you’re someone who has a disability, and you work in the development industry, and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, because LinkedIn is not accessible, that could actually seriously affect the ability for you to get a job.”
So why isn’t social media accessible?
According to Gian, “Facebook changes of up to five times a day. And instead of deploying changes to the general public, they would deploy changes internally to their staff. The staff would log the bugs. If staff consists of people who don’t have any disabilities, then you’re not going to be testing with people who use screen readers or keyboard or switches or anything like that. If, for example, a social media network manages to make things fully accessible one day, we can’t guarantee that the next day that’s going to stay the same.”
Common accessibility issues
If you don’t know where to click to stop it and if you’re restricted to a keyboard or you’re using a magnifier or something like that, actually being able to find where to stop the video or pause the video. is really difficult.
Gian explained that YouTube has this problem. “When I first picked up this problem, someone said ‘oh, but there’s that feature that allows you to turn off the autoplay in the top right-hand corner’. And that’s, that’s all very well and good, but because you have to tab through all the comments under a video before you can get to the right-hand column where that autoplay is located if you’re in a video that’s very popular, you can’t ever get to the right-hand column because you have millions and millions of comments to get through.”
Autoplay is the biggest problem is for people with screen readers who hear the audio of a page. So if a video plays the audio upon loading, the video will overlap the audio of the screen right now. And as a result, they might not actually ever be able to get to a point where they can turn off the autoplay.
This became an issue when Twitter implemented videos. Gian notes: “They haven’t put any thought into actually making the video player accessible at all. The video plays automatically, but not only that, it’s not keyboard accessible at all. Which means that there’s no way for a keyboard user to switch it off.”
There’s also a lot of other problems, especially around coding and using deprecated features and really obvious things like missing mandatory elements in HTML validity and CSS validity.
Gian deep dives into particular challenges on different social media platforms and how developers can respond to them.
Five steps to making social media accessible
- Contact details: make sure your contact information is always available on your social media account page.
- Repeat content: make sure your social media content is available through your website and provide options for daily or weekly digests.
- “So if you have a lot of content and you put a lot of information out in social media, then consider creating, say a newsletter that actually includes all your social media that people can sign up for. And make sure that you know it goes out regularly enough. Make sure there are easy points of entry.”
- Consider using alternative apps and websites that create an accessible interface.
- Clear and simple language.
- Use camel case for example #CodeMotionRome
- Avoid abbreviations where you can.
- Limit hashtags.
- Avoid misspellings because they can cause a lot of problems, especially in Twitter
- Warn users if there’s an autoplay and if there’s a lack of transcripts or captions. audio descriptions.
- Consider testing on social media with users with disabilities or against tech.
- Consider testing your social media against WCAG2.
AccessibilityOz has a plethora of accessibility tools including:
- An automated accessibility testing tool
- Wiki database of accessibility errors, screenshots, code and solutions with over 1000 examples.
- A series of blog posts written by people with disabilities, about their accessibility experiences.
- An accessible slideshow, which is available under GPL.
- Videos on how to create accessible fields or accessible timeouts or accessible error messages. An additional critical resource is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0