Each social media platform has different accessibility features and limitations. With more than 2.7 billion monthly users, Facebook is a powerful resource for organizations of all sizes, and over the last several years, Facebook designers have implemented a number of features to accommodate people with disabilities.
The social platform now includes Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) markup, scalable font sizes, contextual keyboard commands, and other accessible components to deliver a better on-page experience for all users. However, most of the content on Facebook is user generated, and much of that content isn’t optimized for accessibility.
Organizations have a responsibility to include people with disabilities in their online conversations — and by creating more accessible posts, they can reach much wider audiences. As part of our series on improving social media accessibility, we’re providing a few quick tips for becoming more accessible on Facebook.
Facebook offers automatic alt text, but it’s not perfect
Alternative text (or alt text) describes the appearance and function of an image or other web element. If an image doesn’t load or if a user can’t perceive the image visually, the alt text ensures that they don’t miss important information.
Facebook attempts to add alt text automatically to image posts using artificial intelligence. While artificial intelligence has improved in recent years, humans still provide more accurate descriptions. If you use automatic alt text, check the text before publishing your post.
Here’s a quick guide:
- After adding a photo to your post, select the “Edit" box.
- Automatic alt text appears on the left side of the photo. Read it over and make sure it’s accurate.
- Click “Override generated alt text" to input your own description.
- Click “Save.”
You can also edit alt text after publishing a photo by clicking the photo, selecting the three dots (or “options") menu, and selecting “Change Alt Text.” This process may change as Facebook updates its platform, so check Facebook’s Help Center if you’re unable to edit alt text.
Read: 8 Common Image Alt Text Mistakes to Stop Making
Make sure your Facebook video content is accessible
Facebook allows captions, and adding captions can be extraordinarily beneficial: Per internal tests from Facebook, captioned ads had an increased video view time by an average of 12 percent. Many of the platform’s users browse without sound, so captioning your videos is an excellent way to improve your reach.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when posting video content:
- Facebook supports SRT caption files. Users can also write captions frame-by-frame by using Facebook’s video editor.
- Add caption files to your Facebook videos by using the process outlined here.
- If you won’t make caption files regularly, consider posting a transcript in the video description or in a comment.
- If your captioned video is also on YouTube, you can also link to the YouTube video directly instead of uploading it to Facebook.
- Try to avoid using “burned-in" (pre-rendered) captions that can’t be turned off. Some users with neurocognitive differences and vision disabilities might find the text distracting.
- Brands can also use Facebook’s automatically generated captions, but as with image alt tags, it’s important to review them for accuracy.
When writing captions, use plain language wherever possible; if your video contains industry-specific terminology, make sure to explain those terms clearly.
Avoid using too many emojis or hashtags
Emojis and hashtags can help you connect with your audience, but they can also create unnecessary barriers. When people use screen readers to visit Facebook, the software describes emoji literally by reading the associated alternative text. If you use emojis throughout your posts, readers might become confused.
We recommend a maximum of three emojis per post. Don’t use emojis to replace words, and make sure the alternative text fits your message.
Likewise, hashtags can cause readability issues. Some screen readers have trouble interpreting hashtags, particularly when the tags are formatted incorrectly. Use capital letters for each word in the tag. This is called “CamelCase,” and it helps software read your hashtag accurately.
For example, "#ThisIsAHashtag" is properly formatted, while "#thisisahashtag" is not. Use a limited number of hashtags per post — and keep them towards the end of the text.
Give your audience options for accessing your social media content
Facebook’s accessibility team has taken significant steps to make the website useful for people with disabilities. However, disabilities affect people in different ways, and some people may prefer to avoid certain social media platforms.
Wherever possible, post the same content across all of your social channels (some content may need to be modified for platforms with limited accessibility features). Consider adding a page to your website that summarizes your recent social posts. People appreciate options, and by considering all of the different ways that people browse, you can build a better relationship with your readers.