Social media is a giant medium now, and it is hard to stay outside of it. However, most of it is highly visual, and image captioning is only recently started to become a priority for people who are not blind or visually impaired in any sense.
There are many things to talk about to make social media more accessible, but in this post, we will talk about using social media effectively as a blind person. Well, there are apps for the blind like screen readers, but before getting into them, some of the social media platforms also have things to offer to increase their accessibility.
Here is our experience with social media, what we did, what changed since we started using them, and, more importantly, what you can do to have a better experience with them.
[Shane] I got my official start on social media using Twitter back in 2013. You can approach Twitter in a few ways. If you use your phone a lot, the Twitter app is a great way to go. It's very accessible, and I know a lot of people who use it.
But you can also use some third party app to make Twitter more accessible and more efficient to use. I'm a computer guy, so I use a Twitter client. My client of choice is TWBlue, a Twitter client for Windows, evolving for almost a decade. With TWBlue, you can access every Twitter feature, including photo descriptions, a tool to condense links to save characters, and your standard searching and scrolling without having an extra window open on your screen. The entire application is controllable with keyboard shortcuts from wherever you are on your machine. You can find more information on TWBlue here. There are also other social media tools to help you get the best experience on these platforms. You'll find the best one that suits your need with some trial and error in no time.
There are two simple ways to use Facebook. The first and probably the most common is using the app. You can scroll through posts, create pages, and stream video, all from your smartphone. It is entirely accessible, as is the Messenger app, which allows you to chat directly with other Facebook users through text, audio, and video messages. You can also use Facebook's Business Suite app, which will enable you to manage multiple Facebook pages for artists, businesses, etc. This also lets you take advantage of separate inboxes for each page to control messages more professionally.
If you would prefer not to use your phone, you can also use Facebook's mobile website, m.facebook.com, which is much faster and easier to navigate with screen readers. This website also allows you to quickly make posts, search for and interact with users, and download live streams.
Instagram is not really accessible yet. But don't let this stop you!
Unfortunately, the website for Instagram isn't so accessible, though the app works well enough. Most of the posts are based on visual media, photos, or videos, but many people are starting to caption their images. Image captioning is getting more widespread now, as people become more aware of the people living with disabilities.
However, If the visual has no image captioning or alt text, Instagram has a tool that will describe some visual aspects of the photo, and you can always import the image into the Supersense app to get a scan of any text that is present. What's neat about the app is that it can be used to post a photo or video to your Instagram feed, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media at the same time. Instagram is also great for networking since many users have alternate contact methods in their profiles. You can use this to find email addresses and sometimes even phone numbers that you couldn't find elsewhere.
Deciding on who to follow and what to share is pretty universal for all three networks. I started by following all of my friends from school and online, and they followed me back. I posted a few interesting things that got shares and retweets, and the number of followers I had grown organically from there. I try to be pretty authentic, posting what interests me, and avoiding intense debates, which creates a nice environment on the platform. Facebook is designed for longer posts, and you can share entire journal entries there if you'd like. There are also hundreds of Facebook groups where you can interact. Instagram is more geared toward visual media, photos, and videos, but you can use Supersense and the Instagram app to describe a lot of the images that people post.
Ultimately, there are lots of accessible ways to use all three of these platforms if you want to be a part of this ever-growing medium.
What about you? Do you use any social media platforms for socializing or for work?
If you have any ideas or comments, go ahead and post a comment below and tell us what works well for you and what doesn't. Keep the discussion going, and feel free to share this around social media as well. We like to think we're interesting. 😉
For more posts about screen readers, or accessible technology, you can check our article about best apps for the blind, or if you're interested in building new skills and learning new things, you can read our post about echolocating like bats, or address finding tips for the blind.
We’d love to have a conversation. If you are a part of the blind and visually impaired community, you’d like to be part of our mission, or share your ideas and collaborate with us, get in touch with us.
We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Fill out the form below to reach us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org