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How to Make Your Social Media Channels More Accessible to Everyone People with visual and hearing impairment may have accessibility problems in finding out about your business. Here are some simple solutions.

By Syed Balkhi Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

demaerre | Getty Images

Social media is powerful; these platforms have the ability to connect people from all over the world and have changed the way people interact with one another. It has also changed the way businesses build relationships with their customers.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Web Accessibility

Unfortunately though, most social media platforms aren't yet fully accessible. For people who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hearing-impaired, interacting with your content on social media is difficult and sometimes completely impossible.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take on your own social media accounts that will allow you to improve the usability of your content as well as enable you to reach the widest audience possible.

Here's how to make your social media channels more accessible to everyone.

Write hashtags in camelcase.

Hashtags are an important part of social media; they have the ability to link content together as well as widen your reach in order to get discovered by more users. But, if your hashtag looks like this, #CHECKOUTMYHASHTAG, it's difficult for all users to read.

Hashtags in all capital letters are especially difficult to understand for those with visual or reading disabilities. Screen-readers are unable to differentiate the words, which means the hashtag comes out sounding like a jumbled up mess.

Solution: Instead, make sure to write your hashtags in camelcase, like this: #CheckOutMyHashtag. This simple fix will make your hashtags more readable for everyone.

Include open or closed captioning for videos.

Next, with videos taking up so much of social media, it's incredibly important to include open or closed captioning for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Google has even recently announced a new project called Live Captions, a new feature for Android Q. This feature automatically surfaces captions to any video or audio content on a viewer's phone in real time, regardless of whether he or she has an internet connection or not.

Related: Even Internet Entrepreneurs Need to Make Their Businesses Handicap Accessible

Until a feature like this is readily available to everyone, it's important to do your part by adding open or closed captioning to your social media videos as in the example below.

Image Source: YouTube

Open and closed captioning has actually become more popular on social media for everyone because it allows people to watch videos without headphones and not worry about the sound bothering the people next to them. As a result, open or closed captioning will not only make your social media more accessible but can actually increase your views. According to Facebook, videos with closed captions increase viewing time by about 12 percent.

Add image descriptions.

To make your social media channels more accessible to people who are visually impaired, you need to add image descriptions. An image description or alt text allows a screen-reader to describe what's going on in the image so that blind users can have a full understanding of your social media posts.

Last year, Instagram introduced new accessibility improvements that make it incredibly easy for you to add image descriptions on that platform. Instagram introduced automatic alternative text as well as custom alternative text so your business can add a richer description of its photos. When posting a photo on Instagram, simply go to the Advanced Settings and write a brief description of the photo in the alt text section.

Post various types of content.

Posting the same type of content on social media all the time is not only boring, but it makes your social media profiles less accessible. Posting a variety of content types is especially important when you're using Instagram and Snapchat Stories.

For instance, when sharing an Instagram Story like the one below, a screen-reader isn't able to read the text on the image, making this content inaccessible to people with visual or reading disabilities.

Image Source: AdEspresso

So, it's important to mix it up by providing different types of content. Instead of posting Instagram Stories with text on images all the time, use live video and speak to your audience once in a while -- it's a great way to form stronger connections with your audience. Plus, with video, you can add transcription so that the hearing-impaired won't be excluded either.

Related: 5 Steps to Make Sure Your Website Is ADA-Compliant

Over to you

Now that you know how to make your social media channels more accessible to everyone, start taking these simple steps to make it happen. Putting these tips into action will allow you to improve the user experience for your followers of all ability levels. Once your messages become widely accessible, they'll be able to reach everyone.
Syed Balkhi

Entrepreneur, Growth Hacker and Marketer

Syed Balkhi is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of WPBeginnerOptinMonster and WPForms

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