Results from Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media - The User Experience

As part of our first dialogue, Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media - The User Experience, we asked participants the following questions:

  • What are some creative solutions you've used to make social media more accessible for you?
  • What are your recommendations to social media companies on how to create more accessible features and services?

Listed below are the top five ideas posted to the dialogue based on participant votes. If you would like to review the entire archived dialogue, please visit http://ncd-odep.socialmedia.epolicyworks.org. Please note the ideas listed below include minor typographical corrections, which have in no way impacted the substance or the intention of the revised posts.

Top Idea #1: Alt text for images on social media

I frequently post images on various social media sites. I notice that several of my friends take the time to write text descriptions for each image for people who use screen reader software. I'm trying to be more mindful of that in my own online activities. Wouldn't it be great if there was a built-in prompt on Facebook or Twitter that allows you to write a brief description of the image every time you upload one? The same for Pinterest and Instagram.

Comment #1:

I think this is a super idea. It would be great if Facebook paid as much attention to alt text for images as they do for tagging people. I notice many people batch post images with no title or description.

Comment #2:

While it would add another step in submission, an auto prompt for text descriptions would absolutely increase the number of them that get done. Maybe some check boxes or features similar to auto tagging would help. What if the software automatically added information to a caption if the shot were of people, counted how many, and indicated if they were tagged/untagged, and added any geo-location info?

Comment #3:

In addition to having an alt text prompt also suggest a couple brief bullet points and/or an example of the correct/best practice alt text - this would display the first-time an image is uploaded and for subsequent images, this information could be accessed/referenced as desired. Also, suggest an option for the alt-text to be empty (set to null) for some images (i.e. background, bullet points) that are decorative and do not provide information; this is better accessibility and usability.

Comment #4:

Also needed on Tumblr, and I THINK on LinkedIn. (Pinterest often has a limit in their current text box, so it should be made clear to all of these platforms that alt text and the description/comment/whatever space are not the same things.

Comment #5:

Agreed, Savannah. It would be valuable for any social media site that posts images/videos, especially ones that are image-based. Instagram, Snapchat and Vine, for example!

Comment #6:

Very valuable insights, all. The best practices and suggested terminology could assist in developing popular or even universal standards going forward

Comment #7:

GSA should suspend and review all Terms of Service agreements with the dozens of companies until there are adequate reviews and remediation of those sites for proper accessibility - no, they might not be covered under Section 508 but the Fed. Government should then not be doing business with them if they aren't accessible, no one is forcing the gov's arm to use them, other than a 'jumping every social media band-wagon mentality. Using these sites or services implies condoning and complicity. http://www.howto.gov/social-media/terms-of-service-agreements/negotiated-terms-of-service-agreements

Comment #8:

I would like to see an easy way for users of social media platforms such as Facebook to add alt tag descriptions of the photos they post. That way blind users will be able to know what the photos are those are being posted. Perhaps this could be done via audio recording; however, it would be great to have that audio recording descriptor transcribed into text so that deaf viewers would know more details about the photo via the caption.

Top Idea #2: Accessibility is not just for people with disabilities

Make close captions or real live captions standard features on image content that utilize sound/voice. This standard aids in reading comprehension, ESL instruction, help folks recognize if their sound presentation and interpretation is changing. Because accessibility is not just good practices for folks with disabilities.

Comment #1:

This is absolutely true! Consider it as universal design rather than "for people with disabilities only". We know from research that designing from the start with accessibility in mind often benefits everyone. Think about curb cuts and closed captioning -- two examples of accessibility-related design that actually benefits more people than just those for whom the design was intended. Best practices should include accessibility from the start. Retrofitting is so inefficient.

Comment #2:

Yes very true. It is also helping folks learn new languages when the countries language is different than their own. Hearing the words in the local language and reading the caption in your own language is very helpful.

Children who hear and associate captions with spoken words become early readers and better spellers. They love to point out the typos or spoken words that do not match the captioning.

Comment #3:

Real time captions are a good idea. I know that with YouTube users can now easily add captions in many languages. Having this option available for users when adding video content is amazing. Even more standard should be that folks receiving government funding and utilize video content for presentations, information, outreach, and service delivery should be required to have such content accessible with cc/rtc. When they do they leave out tax payers, they leave out people.

Comment #4:

It would be great if webinar platforms had auto captioning to go along with recordings. It would be even better if tools like Skype and Google Hang out had easy universal tools as well. I could clean up auto captioning myself during or after a recorded meeting or discussion. More automatic universally designed tools will allow more accessibility in the informal online social activity world for everyone.

Comment #5:

Yes I agree. For me it is always a lot better to be able to participate or have access to webinars that have closed captions. I am better able to capture the content that is being shared. I can better understand what is being said and that allows me to walk away with a better sense of what was discussed. It makes me feel like I could really participate in the event. It also provides great accountability since it really provides am accessible record of who said what. I am also able to better reference the material. I love learning, and with close captions I am able to better see when new words, concepts, and ideas are introduced. They look new and different and I can see them for what they are, their spelling and also pronunciation. I just learned I had been saying meme all wrong.

Top Idea #3: Increase Accessibility Awareness/Training

Social media sites at their core do not follow universal design practices or follow web accessibility standards in building their user interfaces.

Facebook recently at the CSUN conference discovered that the folks who create and maintain their user interfaces lacked accessibility awareness and/or training. The complexity of different platforms, different API's, etc. added to the list of issues.

http://alastairc.ac/2014/03/csun-scalling-accessibility-facebook/

Use current accessibility standards in all user interfaces and recommend enhancements to the standard as part of continuous improvement.

Comment #1:

The problem, well, a problem, is that Facebook institutionally doesn't know all that much, at least about assistive technology. They know a little about screen readers and that's it. In their mind, all persons with disabilities and all assistive technology are monolithic. And that's not helpful.

Comment #2:

Thank you for your comments--what do the both of you think are some misconceptions about universal design and users of social media w/ disabilities? People with disabilities certainly aren't monolithic, nor is the concept of accessibility. Would love to hear more of your ideas!

Comment #3:

There is a lot of research out there supporting the concept of universal design. Designing from the start with accessibility in mind actually benefits MOST users, not just those with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/) should be baseline knowledge for those developing social media platforms, but it also needs to go beyond that into universally designed UX/UI, offering options and flexibility for users rather than creating barriers where barriers don't need to exist in the technology. See the National Center on Universal Design for Learning for more ideas/information: http://www.udlcenter.org/. Lots of examples, research, guidelines, etc.

Comment #4:

It can get complicated and the price is not free. I try to stay away from Facebook for security issues. Linked In is state of the art and seems to be good source of staying in touch of old schoolmates in business or looking. Great for references needed too.

Comment #5:

From your comments above it sounds like LinkedIn is a better choice than Facebook for accessibility and/or security. Does anyone have recommendations for other social media platforms with accessible user interfaces?

"Facebook recently at the CSUN conference discovered that the folks who create and maintain their user interfaces lacked accessibility awareness and/or training..."

Comment #6:

Why am I not surprised? Yahoo is another company that doesn't have a clue. I recently had to close my email account after nearly 20 years with them, because the latest platform isn't compatible with the magnification software I use. The content bounces all over the place. Designers need to be fully aware of the accessibility products we use, how these products work, and make sure their interfaces interact smoothly.

Top Idea #4: Employment Application Timeout

The timeout period for online employment applications is typically 30 minutes. The average time for a person to complete an online application is usually longer than 30 minutes.

It would be helpful if the application software would prompt at the applicant how much time before prompted with a timeout. The timeout notifications which I have found works best is screen dimming, contrast change, and/or audible beep sound with the alert window centered on the screen.

Too often the alert window is centered on the webpage which can put the window outside the current viewable range and if there is no other indication of timeout it is difficult to determine why your application is suddenly non-responsive.

In general the online application process is user intensive and can be prevent PWD applicants from applying.

Comment #1:

Thank you for your idea! Have you seen similar timeouts on social media apps? Do you have any other ideas specifically on social media and how to make it more accessible for people with disabilities?

Comment #2:

We are linking to online job applications via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Most employers prefer to use their online systems. Even if you have a profile on the social site you need recreate on the employers. It really is time consuming especially if the social site works with your accessibility tools and the employer’s site does not.

Comment #3:

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for ways to bridge the gap between a social media site and the link to an online job application to make it easier for people with disabilities? If so, I encourage you to post it as a new idea.

Comment #4:

Between the application PROCES AND ADDED ASSESMENT TESTS its 2 HOURS PER JOB ONLINE IF NOTHING GOES wrong such as loss of Internet even for a second. You will need to start from scratch. Take advantage of breaks do application on dY AND ASSESMENT WHEN FEELING GOOD NOT TIRED.

Comment #5:

SORRY SPLIT THE Time BETWEEN APPLICATIOPNS AND ASSESMENTS. Don’t DO AT THE SAME DAY.

Comment #6:

Note that WCAG 2.0 is nice and strict about timeouts: http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/time-limits-required-behaviors.html. However, lalle916 makes an important point about the notification -- if it's out of range of the user's attention somehow, such as being off-screen, it might comply with WCAG, but not serve the user.

Comment #7:

I vote for an option that turns the whole timer off. I don't even know how many times I was almost finished with an application, went to submit it, and it said "Sorry, your session has expired. Then I lose all the work I just did, and have to start all over again. I end up having to get someone to help me because I don't want it to happen again, and I get very frustrated. I try to be very independent, but it's hard when a timer, especially an invisible one, is working against me.

Comment #8:

I agree with the consideration of an option to turn off the timer for online job applications. Time limitations can result in the unintended consequence of discriminating against people of all ages and abilities who might require varying amounts of time to navigate the process.

Top Idea #5: Ability to choose colors and font sizes

Without needing to go and override things like the entire web browser, the ability to choose what color a site is (background and text color), and what font size the text is at, would really aid in viewing the site.

Social media sites are ones you're more likely to view on public computers, so they're more likely to be ones this is a bigger deal for. Font size and color both can really determine whether or not someone is able to read the site or not.

Comment #1:

I think that's a really good idea. I often have trouble reading things when the color contrast isn't sharp enough, and this would help a lot.

Comment #2:

This sounds like a good idea -- personalization by site rather than at the machine or browser level. Have you looked at the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure? http://gpii.net It would allow users to store portable personalization profiles in the cloud, and call them up on any device.

Comment #3:

I'm not sure how beneficial this maybe, but apparently it is possible to download an app which helps with the fonts on Facebook (see http://smallbusiness.chron.com/post-bigger-font-facebook-status-45553.html for more information).

However, I agree 100% that this is something that should be default in all social media especially when websites like Facebook and Twitter, as the font text is small, and with websites like Tumblr and Myspace where custom backgrounds may interfere with font color