University of Southern California

USC Identity Guidelines

Social Media Accessibility Guidelines

Creating Accessible Social Media Content

Social media posts will generally reach an audience that includes individuals with disabilities. USC is committed to ensuring equal access to its programs/resources, and all Social Media posts must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA is the accepted standard, and its requirements apply to social media. Though technical adherence to the standards is desired, it may aid those who create social media content to pragmatically think about how the following individuals would access their content:

Tools

Screen Readers. A screen reader is an assistive technology, primarily used by people with vision impairments. It converts text, buttons, images and other screen elements into speech or braille.

Screen Magnifiers. A screen magnifier is a software that magnifies the screen and displays a portion of it enlarged. People with vision impairments primarily use it. There are around ten times as many people who use screen magnifiers over screen readers.

Captions. Provide content for people with hearing impairments and are used by people who process written information better than audio.

Subtitles. The dialogue transcribed into a language. Standard subtitles assume the viewer can hear the audio. For example, a phone ringing does not need to be included.

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SCHH) are written for viewers who may not be able to hear the audio. SDHH contains information about background sounds and speaker changes, along with a translation of the script.

Switches. A switch is an assistive technology primarily used by people with motor impairments to access and control computers, smartphones, electric wheelchairs, smart home appliances, and more.

Text & Copy

Hashtags. Capitalize the first letter of each word, often called “camel case or camel backing.” Since there are no spaces between words in a hashtag, screen readers aren’t given the cue that there are multiple words present. Instead, they’ll usually try to read the phrase as one long word. However, when the first letter of each word is capitalized, screen readers now have the indication they need and are much more likely to read the hashtag as intended.

Fonts & Emojis: Special fonts (Unicode text) and emojis don’t translate well to screen readers. Avoid special fonts always, and do not replace words with emojis.

Graphics and Images

Digital Flyers. If posting an image of a digital flyer, always ensure contrast of the design considers colorblind viewers and that important details are contained within the caption and the ALT text. 

ALT Text Tags. ALT text refers to an invisible description of images that are read aloud to blind users on a screen reader. Adding ALT text allows authors to include pictures but still provide the content in an alternative text-based format. Often on websites and in emails, they are also essential to have on social media. While many platforms attempt to autogenerate ALT text, it’s recommended and extremely easy to input it at the time of posting and scheduling. Facebook’s Creator Studio, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and more all allow you to input ALT text.

Don’t repeat the caption as ALT text, the screen reader will repeat the content twice. Repeating important details (such as time) is ok. Use a brief but specific description of the image.

Videos

Captions. Every video with speech should have captions. YouTube and Facebook autogenerate closed captions; however, please look over them and correct mistakes. IGTV is also beginning to autogenerate closed captions. LinkedIn allows closed captions to be added when posting. Twitter allows closed caption files to be uploaded via Media Studio or Ads. Instagram, Instagram Stories, and TikTok only allow open captions. 

The fastest & easiest way to generate captions:

  1. Upload the video to YouTube
  2. Allow captions to autogenerate (can take up to 24 hours)
  3. Edit and correct the captions as necessary 
  4. Download the SRT file
  5. Upload the SRT file on platforms that allow it
  6. Upload the video and SRT file to video editing software, such as Adobe Premiere, Handbrake or Kapwing
  7. Export the video, choosing “burn captions in”
  8. Upload the video to platforms that do not allow SRT files.

See more below on recommendations and tips for each platform.

YouTube

YouTube will automatically generate captions and transcripts. Please note, captions have limited reliability (85% -90% accuracy), so please review and edit them once they are complete. Methods to create captions for your video:

  1. Create new “CC” in YouTube Studio
  2. Type captions by hand using YouTube’s studio
  3. Edit from automatically generated captions
  4. Set language to English
  5. Wait after uploading for captions to appear. You may need to publish the video, but do not make it public yet. Watch the video to trigger captions to appear.
  6. Edit captions to add audio, sounds, and speaker identification
  7. Export and use the video with captions elsewhere in other social media and publish it to public.

Note that YouTube Studio creates time stamps. Download captions using the Action button, take captions from YouTube to fix/edit, and then you can upload to other social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

Facebook

Facebook can create contrast (use Chrome store).

Photos & Graphics. Alt Text for Facebook autogenerates but easy and quick to update when publishing or after.

Options for Video Captions:

  1. Use the autogenerate function during upload (must click “Autogenerate” or already have “Autogenerate captions for future uploads” checked), with the option to edit after.
  2. Upload SRT file (pay attention to naming requirements)
  3. Manually write and input.

Facebook Stories. Currently, Facebook Stories does not work with screen readers. Video posts with audio should have text added for context.

Instagram

Newsfeed Posts

Instagram Stories. Currently, Instagram Stories does not work with screen readers. Video posts with audio should have text added for context.

IGTV. Video Captions for IGTV autogenerate; otherwise, captions must be burned into the file before uploading.

Twitter

Text & Copy

Images. ALT Text should be inputted during publishing. You cannot edit a tweet once it’s been sent out.

Options for Video Captions

    1. Drop a YouTube video link on Twitter after it has been captioned on YouTube.
    2. Alternatively, you can add closed caption SRT files to videos in Twitter Media Studio if you have access, or Twitter Ads > Creatives > Media if you do not
    3. You can also publish a video with captions burned in if you already have it for Instagram, etc.

LinkedIn

Creating Alternative Text

Options for Video Captions

Additional Resources

  • Quick links