Social Media Accessibility, A Deep Dive into Inclusive Design

A man using ASL during his video conference and a women texting on a smartphone with the title "Social Media Accessibility, A Deep Dive into Inclusive Design"

Accessibility is about creating a digital experience that diverse people with varying abilities can utilize. Accessibility allows people to have an enjoyable user experience that more states are requiring accessibility by law. So why not get ahead of the curve and design experiences that are easier for your user and positively impact your brand?

Post created by Rebecca Andrews
Applied IMC (Spring Quarter 2023)


In the summer of 2022, I started filming and distributing videos about curly hair on an Instagram page. I thought I was doing a pretty good job as a content creator. However, when I became the Social Media Assistant for the WWU Marketing Program, I got training in media accessibility. I quickly realized that content creators and social media marketers ignore a considerable segment by not making their content accessible to all.

What Does Accessibility Mean?

When most people think about accessibility in marketing, they think about web accessibility, which means making websites, web pages and landing pages designed to allow all people, including people with disabilities, to use them. However, accessibility should be applied to websites and every type of digital content and social media platform.

Why Do You Need Accessibility for Social Media?

            As a Content Creator or Social Media Marketer, you might wonder how taking the extra mile to provide accessibility will benefit me. When learning about this topic, I realized that accessibility shouldn’t be implemented with the idea of getting something in return but instead empathizing with those who might have a different way of interacting with social media than you and wanting to do everything you can to make that it easier for them to have a smoother experience like you do.

                  However, some secondary benefits come with providing a more effortless social media experience for people with different abilities. For example, as stated by, The Business Case for Digital Accessibility, accessibility features in products and services often solve unanticipated problems and drive innovation. It also creates and solidifies your brand values; diversity and inclusion efforts are crucial for business success, especially with this new generation with a higher standard of progress and inclusion in business ethics. It also allows brands to reach a wider audience, as people with disabilities account for over 1 billion people. With a spending power of more than $6 trillion! Not to mention that accessibility, most of the time, improves the online experience for all users. This ties to the idea of inclusive design, which is discussed later in the article.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.5 billion people globally live with some sort of hearing loss. With digital content moving more and more toward video and audio content, accessibility and inclusive design in social media is crucial. Another Verizon study found that 83% of US users watch content with sound off, and Chatterblast found that 77% of conversions happened on videos with sound off. So, creating accessible content and having inclusive design will benefit all of your users.

Different Types of Abilities

Now that we know what accessibility means and how its integration into digital content benefits everyone, we can look at the different disabilities people may have. It’s important to note a new framework in the design space that Kat Homes created for Microsoft. Persona Spectrum is a tool used to consider permanent, temporary and situational factors when building inclusive and accessible design. As the image below shows, permanent, temporary, and situational factors might make it different for people to engage with the same content. Some people may have a permanent missing limb, a temporary broke limb or is not able to use a part of their body because of the situation they are currently in.

This ties back to the idea of inclusive design; providing inclusive design is considering different users’ diverse needs and experiences when creating content. This can include designing for users with disabilities, foreign languages or cultural backgrounds, or other unique needs, as stated by Hootsuite. So, providing multimedia, multiple types of the same content, will provide content that is accessible and inclusive to your target audience. For example, if you make a video about how to make jerk spice chicken, you can also create a graphic version for those who might have permanent, temporary, or situational obstacles. Or you can create a blog and so on. However, if you wanted to build accessibility right into your video, you could add in alt text, but before we get ahead ourselves, let’s take a deeper dive into some of the different abilities people may have.

Permanent, temporary and situational circumstances of being able to touch, see, and hear.


Auditory disabilities affect people to have either partial or complete hearing loss, either in one ear or in both. Some people also have auditory processing disorders where it is challenging to focus on or filter out certain sounds (Gerard, 2023).

Sight disabilities encompasses reduced sensitivity to certain colors (color vision impairments/color blindness), mild to moderate loss of some vision (low vision/partial sight), or a complete loss of sight (blindness) (Gerard, 2023).

There are also those who have deaf-blindness. Which is a range of different ability across their sight and hearing senses. Some may have more of their hearing than their sight, others may have more of their sight than their hearing (Gerard, 2023).

Physical and motor disabilities affect people with limited muscular control. Common among hand tremors and various types of paralysis. Also including limited sensation, disorders like arthritis or repetitive stress, and have missing limbs (Gerard, 2023).

Speech disabilities include people who may have difficulty producing understand speech sounds and include stuttering, mutism, or apraxia (a motor disability impacting the muscles that form sounds and words) (Gerard, 2023).

Some of the most common disability typesincludes cognitive, learning and neurological disabilities Some users have perceptual disorders that make it difficult to process visual, textual, numerical, or tactile info. Examples include dyslexia affecting reading, and dyscalculia affecting the ability to perform calculations. Other users may experience more neurologically based behavioral disorders, like attention deficit (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and autism (Gerard, 2023).

Corresponding Accessibilities and Best Practices

For people with auditory disabilities making content more accessible would include providing transcripts, captions, being able to control the volume of audio, customizing the size or style of captions and providing sign language on audio or video content. But it’s important to note that not everyone with an auditory disability can read sign language.  

Here are some best practices for writing alt text, as it is one of the easiest things you can add to graphics to improve a user’s social media experience. All graphics/pictures should also have alt text because accessibility tools read them out loud to describe the images for users. If nothing is there, the accessibility reader will read “image,” which is a poor user experience. To create good alt text, you should describe the image. Also, don’t add “image of” or “photo of.” as the screen reader already says that. Alt text should also Include humor; it should explain any jokes or subtleties conveyed in the visual. If the image has copy that is central to its meaning, include it in the description. Be concise with your alt text, as it often takes longer to narrate it than to read it, so keep that in mind when writing descriptions. Any relevant information not describing the image should be in the caption below the image, not in the alt text (Wong, 2023).

Video Captions should also be added to videos as adding captions or subtitles to videos is crucial for users with hearing challenges. When writing text, you can do things to ensure it is accessible, including writing in plain language. Write copy that a user can understand the first time they read or hear it. Not using fancy fonts, as they are illegible for screen readers. Not using altering caps or all caps as screen readers cannot understand the context of why. Write hashtags in Pascal’s Case; this means capitalizing the first letter of every word in your hashtag. Put blocks of hashtags in a separate comment. Use inclusive language by avoiding ableist language, using gender-neutral pronouns and terms, sharing diverse voices and emojis, and scrutinizing your text for assumptions and limited points of view (Wong, 2023).

blind person will navigate digital content through a screen reader, which reads the text on a screen out loud to the users so they can hear it. People with low vision may also use digital magnifiers to make text larger. Other features that would make digital content more accessible for people with sight disabilities include digital content with meaningful copy, from heading to links, alt text and beyond. Other valuable features include using color patterns with enough contrast to make text and interactive elements easy to read.

People with varying degrees of deaf-blindness primarily rely on their sense of touch, using braille displays. People with deaf-blindness benefit from the same accessibility features that deaf and blind people benefit from. As well as text-based alternatives to media like transcripts of audio and video content. Text-based contact methods, like email and webforms (Gerard, 2023).

To make content more accessible for people who have physical and or motor disabilities, include consistent and predictable navigation, with ways to skip over major sections of content. Interfaces that are usable by a keyboard, speech recognition software, or switch devices. Also, having enough time to complete tasks and read the built-in video caption (Gerard, 2023).

People with speech disabilities may use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices to communicate. They may also use assistive technology like alternative keyboards and switch devices to use the web. In addition to all previously mentioned features, the following features make the web more usable for people with speech disorders: Websites and applications that are not solely voice-based. Being able to reach out through email or feedback forms instead of or in addition to calling (Gerard, 2023).

The following features make the web more usable for people with cognitive, learning and neurological disabilities: Using clear and plain language, with less complex words and shorter sentences. Using predictable and simplified navigation. Minimal distractions on a page, such as audio or video, don’t play on page load. No flashing content or minimal flashing that can be turned off if necessary. Content that is presented in multiple ways (visuals and text) rather than long blocks of text (Gerard, 2023).

Accessibility is about creating a digital experience that diverse people with varying abilities can utilize. Accessibility allows people to have an enjoyable user experience that more states are requiring accessibility by law. So why not get ahead of the curve and design experiences that are easier for your user and positively impact your brand?



Lafayette, J. (2019, May 14). Mobile videos often watched without audio, study finds. Broadcasting Cable.   

Gerard, C. (2023, Nov 23). Western Accessibility Training – Fall 2022. Western Washington University.

Rush, S., Henry, S. L., Eggert, E., Bakken, B., Miller, V. M., & Keen, L. (2018, November 9). The business case for Digital Accessibility. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).   

Spinosa, N. (2022, October 19). Sound on or off? recent trends in video advertising. ChatterBlast.

Wong, L. (2023, April 24). Social Media Accessibility: Inclusive design tips for 2023. Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard.

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Deafness and hearing loss. World Health Organization.