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Ensuring Social Media Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
Most social media platforms such as blogs, social networks, podcasts, and file sharing services are not accessible to persons living with some form of disability. It's time we included the more than a billion people worldwide into the most popular way of communicating online, says Debra Ruh.
I am a big fan of social media. I use it to highlight the value of including everyone in society, with a special emphasis on the community of people living with disabilities (PwD) and accessible Internet and Information and Communications Technology (ICT). I believe that we (the community of PwD) are finding our voices via social media; however, there are some significant accessibility issues that should be addressed.
Image: Social Media has to be accessible for persons with disabilities in order to ensure their full participation in online communications
Blogs, podcasts, social networks and other social media platforms have increasingly become the communication tool and medium of choice for most of us, allowing users to communicate, receive information, distribute content and follow updates within and outside our networks easily. Unfortunately, most social media applications today do not adequately address accessibility and are difficult to use with assistive technology, which makes them inaccessible to many users with disabilities.
Consider that one out of every three households in the U.S. is impacted by disabilities, and according to the World Health Organization one in seven people are impacted by a disability worldwide. Do we really want to exclude as much as 15% of the population from social media? This group comprising more than a billion people worldwide is a key influencer of the public’s perceptions, and while social media can bring the world to those who can use it, there are still many who cannot.
As an example, WebAIM’s May 2012 screen reader survey indicated that only 54.2% of screen reader users surveyed found social media sites to be “very accessible” or “somewhat accessible”, while 33.7% of respondents said social media sites were “very inaccessible” or “somewhat inaccessible”. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement here.
Some common accessibility issues with sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube include:
Social media is part of electronic and information technology; thus, government agencies must comply with Section 508 accessibility when using any of these web-based tools. In addition, non-governmental organizations using social media may have more responsibility to ensure accessible content in the future, as the U.S. Department of Justice may issue regulations for websites under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Presently, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act covers topics such as captions on internet videos.The use of social media websites is becoming an important part of the workplace. These communication tools have the potential to create a significant impact on organizational and professional reputations. It is important for organizations to develop a social media policy to properly portray, promote and protect the institution, and it is critical to blend accessibility into that policy.
Here are a few tips for making the content you put out via social media more accessible:
• LIA - Libri Italiani Accessibili (Italian Accessible Books)
• CONSUMER ELECTRONICS ASSOCIATION PARTICIPATES AS GOLD SPONSOR OF THE M-ENABLING SUMMIT 2013
• USA: Federal Social Media Accessibility Toolkit Hackpad
• Delivering accessible Electronic & Information Technology (E&IT)
• FCC Public Event: Accessing Social Media, Washington, D.C., USA
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