ontent creators have been taking social media channels by a storm for more than a decade. What started as a niche job profile has steadily made inroads in all our circles, so much so that we all have that one friend who is either a digital creator or at some level a social media influencer.
What that means is that smartphones and other portable equipment are easily accessible to most of us. We can shoot, edit, post, and distribute all from one place through high-speed internet. And then watch what others are making on the same device! But while the non-disabled audience is buried deep under this content overload, accessibility to some of the same content for those with impaired hearing or sight is still a long road ahead. It’s almost 2021. Cars are beginning to drive themselves, and we’re still not being able to make the internet a truly inclusive world.
TikTok Mogul Scarlet Waters, aged 19, has 3.8 million followers. She’s deaf in both ears but most her content, which she signs through, is a must for everyone:
And she’s not alone. Ms Deaf Queen on Instagram makes content that you don’t need to watch with the sound on. On the same page is Jazzy, a YouTuber with more than 200k followers sharing relatable content around deafness, British Sign Language—which is also her primary language—beauty, travel and lifestyle. These influencers’ content normalises the different abilities in a way that making content accessible becomes the default setting, not an exception.
The storytelling approach for people who are visually impaired is different. And people like Nathalia Santos from Rio De Janeiro and Vanessa Bruna are constantly putting in time and effort to familiarise the internet with their struggles with accessibility and daily life.
What is the Solution?
- Caption it.
Let’s begin with empathy. Once you have shot and edited your content, think… “should I add subtitles, so my content is more accessible to a larger audience? Will it make it easier for a deaf person to know what I am talking about” Yes. Always. And to know how to do this, here’s Rikki Poynter, a hearing-impaired content creator, consultant and public speaker who has extensively worked on deaf awareness, accessibility/closed captioning awareness which includes her #LIGHTSCAMERACAPTION campaign.
Adding subtitles/closed captions to all your work—irrespective of where you’ll share and post—is a practice, that we believe, is definitely worth the extra time and effort. It is bound to engage a much wider audience base. According to a 2019 report by Verizon Media, 80% people said they are more likely to watch an entire video when the captions are available. 69% of people reported watching videos without sound in public spaces and 25% watched videos without sound in private spaces.
- ‘Alt Text’ It
Alt Text, short for Alternative Text, is an additional description box on websites and (now) on social media channels where you can describe the image you’ve posted. This enables the screen reader feature in smartphones to pick up on the text and read it out to the blind and the visually impaired so they can engage with content actively.
Twitter led the way with the Alt Text back in 2016. Since then, Facebook and Instagram have added this feature to their platforms too. All you have to do is click on the ‘edit post’ option to find the option to add Alt Text.
Megan Jayne Crabb’s Instagram account is a good example to refer to understand what an accessible social media profile looks likes. She adds Alt Text to all her posts, and often lays emphasis on making social media more accessible:
It’s only a matter of an additional hour to tie up the loose ends and make your content a holistic experience for one and all. Over 700 million people in the world can find Alt Text and SRT subtitles useful.