Social Media isn’t Accessible for Everyone – #hcsmca Explores
Social media is an increasing presence in our everyday lives. It has changed the way people gather information, accomplish everyday tasks and connect with individuals both within and outside of their personal networks. We assume that the shift towards social media, particularly on mobile devices, has enabled communication to be even more convenient than ever.
But are social media tools convenient for everyone?
Despite being described as a democratic tool that reduces social hierarchies and promotes inclusion, social media can present barriers for individuals with a disability. Assistive devices and built in accessibility features can assist and in many cases enable individuals with a visual, auditory or mobility impairment to navigate and participate in media usage. However, common challenges to accessibility still persist.
Some accessibility barriers are located within the media or device itself: an inability to increase font size, difficulty navigating between and within apps, incompatibility with voice software, no keyboard shortcuts, poor colour contrast etc. Other barriers such as absent alternate text for images and videos without closed captioning are related to social media content.
If improved accessibility means improved access for all, why do these barriers exist? Some reasons may be that accessibility functions and practices are not standardized, training for developers is not always readily available and assistive devices may have trouble keeping up with rapidly evolving technology.
An additional and underlying reason is that the accessibility of social media is rarely discussed outside of communities of people with disabilities.
- T1: What accessibility barriers to using social media have you or someone you know experienced?
- T2: If improved accessibility means improved access for all, why do these barriers exist?
- T3: One “accommodation” does not fit all. Every social media tool excludes someone. What can you do to ensure your use of social media is more accessible?
- T4: How can we build conversations about social media accessibility into our social communities?
Resources on how to promote a more accessible social media experience
- Accessibility Hub. “Social Media Accessibility – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube” Queen’s University (accessed Nov. 8, 2015)
- Anderson, PF. “Social Media for Exclusion” Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Blog (accessed Nov. 8, 2015)
- DigitalGov. “Improving the Accessibility of Social Media in Government” (accessed Nov. 8, 2015)
Photo credit: uditha wickramanayaka via Flickr CC.