According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide have some form of vision impairment, with roughly 253 million experiencing severe vision disability or total blindness. There are also roughly 466 million people globally who are deaf or hard of hearing. That’s a huge portion of the world population that may need to use inclusive technology like screen readers, text-to-speech programs, and/or captioning to navigate the digital world.
Someone doesn’t need to have a permanent disability like total blindness or hearing loss to be impacted by accessibility best practices for social media either. An individual could also have a disability that is:
This is important to remember when developing your social media strategy. Just because you have a highly visual or audial product or service doesn’t mean that you don’t need to implement accessibility best practices. If the effort isn’t being made to be inclusive online, then the experience of some individuals could be hindered.
Screen Reader: software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on a screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
Speech Synthesizer: text-to-speech systems used with computers that are programmed to include all the phonemes and grammatical rules of a language, allowing words to be pronounced correctly.
Text-to-Speech Programs: technology that is used to change data into spoken words.
From a marketing standpoint, implementing accessibility best practices just makes good business sense. When promoting a product, service, or cause, it’s logical to want to reach and engage with as many people as possible in the hopes of converting them into a contact, customer, or sale. By making your social media content and the way you deliver it more accessible, you can avoid excluding a sizeable portion of your potential audience and missing out on important conversions.
Legality and Compliance
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to accessible social media is legality and compliance. In regards to digital accessibility, people will sometimes reference the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability as well as requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and necessitates accessibility requirements on public accommodations. The ADA in its current state is felt to be more applicable to brick-and-mortar facilities. However, a recent decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019 ruled that it can, in certain instances, also apply to the “websites and apps” of businesses.
Even without clear guidelines specifically for accessible social media, it’s more than likely only a matter of time before actual regulations are outlined and consistently enforced. Realistically, it’s better to make your social media accessible now rather than wait for any potential lawsuits.
Compassion for Others
Above all, the main rationale for creating and delivering accessible social media content should be that you simply care about your clients, customers, and connections—established and potential—and how they engage with you online. You should care if your content is clear and understandable. You should care if part of your audience is being left out of the conversation that you’re trying to include them in.
You should care if people aren’t having an equal experience due to inaccessible content on your social media platforms. Accessibility on social media is a small but important part of a larger objective: making the online world and digital communications truly inclusive, ensuring that everyone is always included in the conversation and feels properly represented.
A great resource to reference for digital compliance are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are currently the closest the digital world has for a uniform set of standards for accessibility.