How to Make Social Media Content Accessible

June 18, 2019 BY JACLYN LEDUC
Updated: June 16, 2021

Cartoon image of John Foliot of Deque Systems

The webinar Accessibility and Social Media covers how to make your social media content accessible to more people. Presenter John Foliot, the Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems, talks about how to apply success criteria from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to your social media content and highlights the Golden Rules of Accessibility.

When it comes to social media accessibility, John points out that it’s ultimately the responsibility of the social media channel itself to make its publishing platform fully accessible. However, there are things you can do to contribute to social media accessibility.

The Golden Rules of Accessibility

Accessibility Myth #1

Myth: Social media is accessible, it can be used without limitation.

Truth: Social media is getting better, but there are still many limitations. Many of the accessibility issues are based on the publishing platform itself, though some are under the user’s control, i.e., you.

While there are specific WCAG guidelines you can follow when creating and sharing social media content, you can follow the Golden Rules of Accessibility for all types of content.

Be reachable

Be at the ready when your followers have challenges accessing your content. Provide your contact information on your social media profiles and link to your accessibility policy if you have it.

Be redundant

When it comes to accessibility, being redundant is a good thing. Posting on multiple social channels provides people with more access points to your content, and therefore makes it more accessible to more people.

Be a source

Caring about accessibility is cool. Being a source means learning about accessibility issues and sharing that information with your followers.

Be simple

Don’t make things complicated, because that’s not helpful for anyone. Aim to write in plain language and be careful with the use of acronyms, hashtags, and abbreviations. Easy-peasy! 🍋

Be considerate

Show your followers that you’ve got their backs. When creating and sharing content to social media, always consider the user’s perspective. For channels that are image heavy, like Instagram, don’t forget to add alt text.

Does WCAG Apply to Social Media Accessibility?

Accessibility Myth #2

Myth: Compliance with WCAG 2.0 or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act guarantees that social media is accessible to everyone.

The Truth: Just because you’re fully compliant doesn’t mean that every user can engage with your content. Even by following accessibility guidelines, your organization’s content still may be inaccessible to various groups. In fact, WCAG 2.0 has gaps that leave members of the cognitively disabled community on the outs.

There are roughly ten success criteria from WCAG 2.0 that are specifically focused on ensuring content is perceivable and operable. John believes that these criteria may be relevant to users publishing content on social media.


The WCAG 2.0 guidelines indicate that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

Success Criteria 1.1.1: Non-text Content

All non-text content that is presented to the user must have a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose and that accurately conveys the message of the non-text content.

Success Criteria 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and 1.2.5: Time-based Media

For all prerecorded video and audio content, an alternative must be provided. In other words, this guideline calls for closed or open captions and audio description for synchronized media content and transcripts for audio-only content.

Not all social media channels support caption files or audio description tracks, but it’s good practice to have them at the ready for when someone requests them.

Criteria 1.3.3: Adaptable

The premise for this success criteria is to create content that can be presented in different ways. Be sure that content does not only appeal to one specific sensory characteristic, such as sight, as a sole way of providing information.

Criteria 1.4.1 and 1.4.3: Distinguishable

Color should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information. Be mindful of the use of color in content, and use tools such as the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to make sure that text has a color contrast of at least 4.5 to 1.




Accessibility Myth #3

Myth: Organizations are reaching everyone with their social media content.

Truth: Many organizations have the best of intentions and are using social media to reach everyone, yet people with disabilities are still often left on the outs. Not everyone has access to all social media content, and whether or not organizations are reaching everyone is questionable due to accessibility limitations.

The WCAG 2.0 guidelines indicate that user interface components and navigation must be operable.

Criteria 2.3.1: Seizures

This may seem obvious, but do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures. Anything flashing on a screen more than three times per second has been known to trigger epileptic fits, so it’s best to avoid going over that three-per-second threshold.

Criteria 2.4.4: Link Purpose (In Context)

The purpose of each link must be determinable from the link text alone or with context. The idea is that a link must make sense when taken out of context. Otherwise, the text leading up to the link should say more than “click here” or “read more.”

Even with all of these success criteria to follow, you may still find yourself struggling to make social media content fully accessible. When all else fails, John offers a sound suggestion:

If you can’t make it accessible with the social media channel, post accessible versions on your web site and provide a link from the social media site to the accessible version.

The Future of Accessibility

By now, you may be asking yourself, “How do I ensure that my organization is prepared for the future of accessibility?”

The answer is by no means simple, but John points out a great place to start. He says, “A lack of a social media accessibility policy at your organization today means that you’re unprepared.” He recommends drafting and implementing a social media policy that provides guidance and instruction to your organization and shows your commitment to meeting WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. With a policy in place, your organization will have an official document to turn to for guidance should any issues arise.

Although there are no official guidelines or compliance regulations for social media accessibility at this time, things could change in an instant. After all, the accessibility landscape is often changing. Who knows what the future holds for accessibility?

Watch the full webinar below:

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