TikTok isn’t just a platform for viral dance routines. It’s also a powerful marketing tool, with an audience of nearly 7 million global users as of January 2021. Many of these users may require accommodation to consume your brand’s content. The app’s audience is global, and 15% of the world’s population have a disability. That’s about 1 billion people, some of whom undoubtedly spend time on TikTok.
To reach the broadest TikTok audience, creators must take advantage of the app’s built-in accessibility features and follow best practices for broader digital accessibility. As part of our series on social media accessibility, here are a few ways to do both:
1. Add captions to your videos
For questions about digital accessibility, refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a clear set of standards for improving access to online content. Compliance with WCAG requires the use of captions (commonly called “subtitles”) for all recorded speech.
Captions make your content available for people with hearing-related disabilities, as well as anyone browsing TikTok without audio. Luckily, the app provides a native speech-to-text tool that automates captioning. To use it, follow these steps:
- Record the video within the TikTok app. (There are ways to automate captioning for videos created outside TikTok. We’ll discuss those after this list.)
- Click the red checkmark button to proceed to the editing screen.
- Choose the drop-down arrow on the right side of the screen to reveal the Captions link. Select this link and the app will render transcriptions.
- Review and edit the automated captions.
- Select Save when the captions are complete.
- Adjust caption location.
Of course, many marketers create social media video content outside of the app. In that scenario, try a third-party auto-captioning tool. Here’s a list of a few options. Failing all else, you can transcribe video dialog manually, using a text-creation tool in your editing app. The goal is to give every user the option to read instead of listen.
2. Enable text-to-speech (TTS) voiceovers for written content
TikTok videos often incorporate text, which can be inaccessible for people with vision impairments, low literacy in your language, or a preference for listening rather than reading. Screen readers are a common tool for converting written language into audible speech, but these devices typically don’t convert text in images or videos. However, TikTok provides a native TTS capability to fill the gap.
To add TTS voice overs to your on-screen text, follow these steps:
- Create a video in the TikTok app and proceed to the editing screen.
- Choose the Text link at the bottom of the page and enter your text.
- Select completed text and tap the Text-to-speech option that appears.
The tool will do the rest. Be sure to match the length of your video to the playtime of the rendered TTS voice over to avoid confusion. If you create videos outside of TikTok, use a third-party TTS tool to match your on-screen text. Here are some free options. You’ll have to add the TTS audio to your video editor and line it up with the on-screen text manually, so creating TTS-enhanced videos within the TikTok app is typically the quicker, easier choice.
3. Avoid low-contrast text and ornate fonts
TikTok allows users to change text color, background color, and font. That can lead to accessibility issues for people with low vision, color blindness, dyslexia, or other differences of ability. Some users find italics and other heavily decorated fonts distracting or even unreadable. Many require strong color contrast between text and background for legibility.
The WCAG guidelines suggest a minimum text color contrast of at least 4.5:1. When in doubt about contrast ratios, stick with black on white, which, in pure shades, have a contrast ratio of 21:1. As for the most accessible font, TikTok’s Classic is probably your best bet, with its clean, undecorated lettering.
These three tips should get you started, but there’s much more content creators can do to make TikTok content more accessible. Consider adding audio descriptions to videos to reach more users with vision impairments. Avoid flash and strobe effects, which can cause seizures for some users. (TikTok will help you with this one; it displays a warning label when creators add effects that may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Users can also screen out strobing content and animated thumbnails.)
Ultimately, the best approach to accessible TikTok content is to design for people with all different abilities. By making accessibility your goal from the start, you’ll reach the broadest audience possible through TikTok and all your social media feeds.