Accessible Social Media – COM0011 post 2

Hash Tag a11y


One Social Media topic that is near and dear to my heart is Social Media Accessibility (Accessibility in general). #a11y

As an Assistive Technologist and a person with a disability accessibility is important to me for work (I and the clients I work with) and every other aspect of my life.

Working in the Centre for Students with Disabilities has given me hands on experience with accessibility success and challenges. Out of close 20,000 full time students at Algonquin College my department works with over ten percent of the students.. I am not sure that the college population reflects Canada’s or the World’s population but here more than 1 in 10 students have identified as having a disability. Surprising? I have heard the stat – 15% of Ontario’s population has a disability.

I am not trying to build a business case for accessibility (many other people have already done that – The business case for accessibility – MaRS Best PracticesThis is a really interesting video). I want to explore Social Media and Accessibility, the barriers, some of the popular solutions.

Because of the nature of technology and Social Media this could be a perpetual stream of Blogs, as new technologies are used new problems are found, new ways to use tools emerge, tips, tricks and solutions eventually emerge etc.

I am not interested in going on a rant about specific accessibility compliance laws, rules and guidelines but may mention them or parts of them from time to time.

Some important accessibility guidelines:

AODA – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act
(mainly Section 508)
Information and Communication Standards – most relevant to Social Media

WAI – Web Accessibility Initiative
WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

What is a disability

Sounds like a simple question and it can. The Ontario Human Rights Code (one of the many layers of law that apply to my workspace and where I live) says.

“Ontario’s Human Rights Code

The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) provides for equal rights and opportunities, and freedom from discrimination. The Code recognizes the dignity and worth of every person in Ontario. It applies to the areas of employment, housing, facilities and services, contracts, and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.”
– See more at:

What does accessibility mean to Social Media

I like to think of this question in terms of the WCAG standards

  • Perceivable
    • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
    • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
    • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
    • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
  • Operable
    • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
    • Give users enough time to read and use content.
    • Do not use content that causes seizures.
    • Help users navigate and find content.
  • Understandable
    • Make text readable and understandable.
    • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
    • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Robust
    • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

WCAG 2.0 Theme Song Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

These standards address electronic information which seems to cover all aspects of modern Social Media.

Questions to explore next time

  • What are Social Media access barriers?
  • Possible solutions to the barriers – content format, delivery technology, etc.

Social Media Accessibility Awareness

If one person becomes aware of this issue because of this post than the post is a success.

Accessibility starts with awareness and although the idea is not new it is news to a lot of people.

Are you thinking of Social Media Accessibility?

Is this the first time you’ve heard of the idea?

6 thoughts on “Accessible Social Media – COM0011 post 2

  1. This is an interesting post, and I have to admit that I had not given much thought to accessibility and social media. I think the skills to make websites and social media accessible and in compliance with AODA are skills new graduates should have or at least be familiar with in order to help companies and organizations comply.

    I know of a learning technologist who is helping a faculty member use iPad apps to help a student with recall difficulties as an identified disability. The faculty member is in his 60s, and it’s exciting to see him not only learn how to use an iPad for his student, but to research the best apps for his student to help him learn.

    • I wish we had an accessibility component to every program we offer at the college, at the very least an awareness piece. Most of the things that need to be done are simple and can be done by everyone and some may be specific to social media use, others software and hardware and other things can be applied anywhere.

  2. This never occurred to me until I read this. You are completely right, there should be accessible options for people with disabilities! What an interesting read, you really got me thinking about this.

    I suppose maybe it is potentially difficult to achieve? Maybe that’s the reason it hasn’t been done yet? I’m not sure exactly how they’d work this technology to be compatible with every website.

    With that aside, I really hope this idea comes to fruition some time in the near future. Human rights and equality is super important.

    • I am glad to see some interest in my post. I often feel like I am dragging around a big blue soap box.
      As far as how hard it is to make things accessible – some things are hard because we have not figured them out but most of what needs to be done is simple. Plain English, consistent style and markup, alternatives to various sensory types of information (text for audio and video, video and audio for text) or simply working with someone when they identify a problem with your content so you can solve the issues together.
      It can make money, it is the law and it is the right thing to do.

      Thanks for taking the time to read this post

  3. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing! As all others above, I have not given much thought to social media accessibility mostly because it is not something I know well. I agree – the person who will start making some tools accessible for all (maybe you!) will be very successful! Something to present to some tech start up company perhaps! It’s incredible what they can do with technology these days!

    • It’s important to make the tools accessible from the beginning, cheaper to do at the beginning than later.
      It is also important to remember that the content provider has a big role in making things useable for more people. I will discuss that in later posts, things like how easily caption a video and alternative text information for graphics can be done by the content poster/provider, usually just a matter of knowing what, why and how.
      I have not encountered someone who is posting to make things inaccessible on purpose.

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