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Accessibility at ESF
Social Media Guides

General Accessibility Guidelines

Varying accessibility options are available on social media platforms. University accounts must ensure that social posts are accessible to the greatest extent possible. The following guidelines should be used when posting.

Authoring Content

Write in plain language. Remember that viewers won't necessarily know what acronyms stand for, or have a scientific background to understand technical terminology or jargon. It may be helpful to consider how you would phrase the post if you were talking to a 14 year old high school student. Some viewers might be!

Alternative Text

Most social media platforms allow you to "alt text" to images to describe the content of images, graphs and charts for people using assistive technology such as screen readers. 

When making a social media post, consider how the post would appear without the attached image. Is the user receiving the same information that they would if the image were visible?  

Purely decorative images, which don't add information to the post, does not need to be described in alt tags. However, such images should be provided with null (or empty) alt text (alt="") so that they can be ignored by assistive technologies, such as screen readers. 

Video captioning

In order to be accessible, videos posted to social media should always include captions. These can be 'closed captions' (which can be turned on and off), or 'open captions' (text embedded in the frames of the video that can't be removed).

Youtube, Facebook, Zoom and an increasing number of other platforms now provide automatic captioning, which is performed by computer AI. Automatically generated captions range in accuracy from about 70% to roughly 90%. These captions are a good start, but for full compliance, they should be edited by a human for better accuracy.

Videos with no spoken content should include 'audio description', which is a spoken track describing the visual elements of the video for those who cannot see it. If this is not possible, then text in the post describing the contents of the video can be helpful. For example: "Video description: Aerial footage of ESF's Newcomb Campus, including Huntington Wildlife Forest, the Adirondack Interpretive Center and the Adirondack Ecological Center."

Live or real–time captioning cannot be provided by computers and can only be performed by a human. Typically, live captioning services are provided by a paid service.

Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs need to be pausable (Facebook, Twitter and an increasing number of other social media platforms now provide this as built–in functionality). They should not flash or flicker fast enough to be a potential trigger for epilepsy (fewer than 3 flashes/flickers per second).

In addition, be wary of patterns including stripes or checkering that contain more than 5 light/dark pairs going in any direction.

Animated GIFs should not be relied on to communicate information that can't be gained otherwise in the post. Consider what the post would look like without the GIF. Can viewers still understand everything you want them to?


Graphical emojis typically come with embedded description, so text–to–speech screen readers will describe them. When using multiple emojis, leave spaces between them and use them judiciously.

When using text–based emoticons, such as :D, text–to–speech screen readers cannot understand them. They will describe the symbols individually (such as 'semi-colon D').

Both of these are best used sparingly. When using emojis or emoticons, consider how the viewer would perceive your content if they were using a screen reader or were otherwise unable to see the image.


For hashtags that include multiple words, each word should be capitalized (this is sometimes known as ‘CamelCase’). Capitalizing each word lets text-to-speech screen readers understand how to read the hashtag. For example: instead of #allinthistogether, which a screen reader would attempt to process as a single word, use #allInThisTogether. The capital letters allow a screen reader to identify the end of one word and the beginning of the next. This is also easier on people who have low vision or visual processing issues.

Decorative Text

It's sometimes popular to use decorative text and symbols on social media. For example: ©olor instead of color.

Before doing this, keep in mind that each symbol is processed by a computer as having its own meaning. A computer will not read © as 'C' the way a human eye can. A viewer using a text to speech screen reader will have difficulty understanding this content.

Accessibility by Platform


Twitter provides image description or 'alt text' capability when you include an image in a post. You should always make use of this.

Good image descriptions are concise (Twitter provides a character limit) and enable people to understand what's happening in an image. You can add a description to each image in a Tweet.  You cannot add image description to a video. 

Twitter does not provide automatic captioning for videos. If you want to add a captioned video to Twitter, it must be captioned before uploading.

When using hashtags on Twitter, remember to follow hashtag accessibility guidelines.


Facebook adds machine-generated alt text automatically. However, this alt text may not always say what you want it to say, and it doesn't recognize text included in images. It's recommended to add your own descriptive text to images you post on Facebook.

Facebook automatically generates closed captions for videos you upload on Facebook. However, it may not always be fully accurate. It's recommended to view captions for Facebook videos after they're generated, and edit to correct mistakes.

When using hashtags on Facebook, remember to utilize hashtag accessibility guidelines.


YouTube automatically generates captions for most videos after you upload them, but machine–generated captions typically are not fully accurate. It's recommended that you view captions for Youtube videos after they're generated, and edit to correct mistakes.

If the video includes visual information that's necessary to understand what the video is communicating, then you must include audible description on the video soundtrack. If you don't want to add audible description to the video, then an alternative solution is to create another version of the video that includes audio description and to cross–link the two videos. Both videos should be posted at the same time.

Youtube also allows you to add transcripts to a video, which can be a useful tool for people who cannot or don't want to watch the video to gain information.

Not only is this important for accessibility, but it's also useful to know that over 50% of Youtube videos are now watched with sound off.


Instagram automatically generates alt text for images. However, this alt text may be inaccurate or incomplete. It's recommended that you add your own alt text instead.

Keep in mind that this description will only be read if someone is using a screen reader to access Instagram.

When adding hashtags to Instagram, remember to abide by hashtag accessibility guidelines.


LinkedIn provides image description or 'alt text' capability when you include an image in a post. You should always make use of this.

Good image descriptions are concise (LinkedIn provides a character limit) and enable people to understand what's happening in an image.