5 Ways to Make Social Media Messages More Inclusive

Inclusive event design doesn’t stop — or start — with the event itself. Organizations and event marketers should practice it on social media, too.

Author: Curt Wagner       

icons symbolizing various disablities

Adding captions to videos and using hashtags with capital letters on each word are two ways event marketers can make their social media accessible to everyone.

When Abbie Vance, PCMA EMEA’s new community and events manager, started working on the social-media toolkit for Convening EMEA, Sept. 20-22, in Copenhagen, she asked the team to be sure to capitalize the first letter of each word in the hashtags associated with the event (#ConveningEMEA vs. #conveningemea). Vance, who has partial deafness, shared with the team that the capitalization enables screen readers to read the hashtag as intended — and benefits everyone else as well, also known as the “curb-cut effect.”

An estimated 1.3 billion — roughly one out of six — people worldwide experience some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization. So it makes good sense for planners and their organizations to ensure that all members of their audience have the same opportunities to participate in their events. Not only that, but as marketing and accessibility specialist Meryl Evans said during Convening Leaders 2022, accessibility and inclusion efforts benefit far more people than those with disabilities, and that includes social-media posts as well.

Hashtag Style

A simple way to begin creating inclusive social media messaging, as mentioned above, is by capitalizing the first letter of each word in a hashtag, also called UpperCamelCase or PascalCase. A now infamous example of a bad hashtag appeared in 2013 when British PM Margaret Thatcher died. The hashtag, #nowthatcherisdead, confused many fans of entertainment icon Cher, who misread it as announcing the star’s death. Had the hashtag writer followed the inclusive style, #NowThatcherIsDead, no one would have misunderstood.

Here are four other ways to make social media posts more inclusive, gleaned from several “best practice” lists. For more information on these tips and 11 others, read “16 Ways to Make Your Social Media Accessible & Inclusive” at LocaliQ. Most social- media platforms also offer their own advice and tips.

Use Plain Language

Social-media posts that are easy to read and understand will be more accessible for everyone. Write in active voice using uncomplicated words and short sentences. Avoid jargon and slang spell out acronyms on first reference.

Person-first Language

Don’t define people or communities by their disabilities, diagnoses, or appearances. Instead, use person-first language such as “a person who is deaf” or “a person with a disability.”

Alt-text and Image Descriptions

While alternative text and image descriptions are different, they both allow those who use screen-reader software to have images described to them. Here is how they differ, according to Access Living, a Chicago-based nonprofit that advocates for the disability community:

Alt-text communicates the essential visual information of an image — its content and purpose. It is added to an image and is not normally visible to sighted readers.

Image description is more detailed than alt-text, describing visual elements of an image or graphic such as layout, colors, fonts, and someone’s appearance. It should appear in the body or caption of a social post, depending on the social media platform used.

Consider the following when writing out alt-text or image descriptions:

  • Describe what you can see in the image and keep in mind the context and how it supports the text.
  • Do not start with “Photo shows,” “Image of,” or “Graphic for.”
  • Keep the descriptive text as short and simple as possible.
  • Each social-media channel offers tips on how to add alt-text to images on the platform.

Find more about alt-text and image descriptions at Access Living.

Video Captions

Add captions or subtitles to any videos you post for audience members with hearing challenges. Captions also help non-native speakers and people viewing with their sound turned off. You can add closed captions on most social platforms as an .srt file.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.

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