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Social Media Accessibility Guidelines

In accordance with our Social Media Policy and the Texas Administrative Code, University social media accounts must be accessible and usable by people with the widest range of capabilities possible.

2.6 All content on Official University Social Media Sites must comply with 1 TAC 206 and 1 TAC 213 to ensure that the information is accessible and usable by people with the widest range of capabilities possible. Accessibility requirements apply to the content on the social media tool, not the features of the tool. Therefore, if the Official University Social Media Site does not use an inaccessible feature, it is not in violation of accessibility requirements. It is the responsibility of the Official University Social Media Site administrator to ensure social media content is fully accessible.

The following guidelines are ways to ensure that your accounts and content are accessible.

Alternative Text

Often referred to as "alt text" or "image descriptions," alternative text is a written description of an image. For those who use screen readers, alt text is invaluable. Without an understanding of the image that's in a post, your audience may not be getting the full story. Alt text does not typically appear anywhere on the screen for those who are not using screen readers.

When creating your post, there is a separate field for entering alt text. As you write your alt text, briefly describe what the image looks like. Think about the details that are most important. Are there people in the image? How many? What are they doing? Are the outfits that they are wearing key information for the post? (Example: Red shirts on Cougar Red Friday)

Use your best judgment to find a balance between too much information and too little, as writing an overly long description will result in a screen reader taking a long time to read your post.

Avoid Sharing Graphics With Large Amounts of Text

It's recommended that you avoid sharing graphics that have large amounts of text, such as a graphic that was designed to be a print flyer. Graphics like these are difficult to read on mobile devices since they were not designed to be displayed only several inches in size. Creating a graphic that is attention-grabbing and then putting the bulk of the information in the post copy itself or at a website that you include a link to is generally a better strategy. Any text included in a graphic should be written in the alt text.

Captioning

Having captioning (sometimes called subtitles) available on the videos that you post allows people to understand a video without having the sound on. Most social networks begin auto-playing a video that you scroll to with the sound muted, so having captions playing at the bottom of a muted video can help draw people in and watch your content. For people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, captioning is essential.

There are two main types of captioning: Closed captions and open captions.

Closed Captions

Closed captions are captions that can be turned on or off and are stylized by the platform they are playing on.

Example of a video on Twitter with closed captions (you may need to turn them on by pressing the CC button):

Open Captions

Open captions are edited into the video itself and cannot be turned on or off. These captions have the visual design of the editor's choosing. Since they are "burned in" to the video file itself, they cannot be adjusted in any way by the viewer.

Example of a video on Twitter with open captions:
Creating Closed Captions

There are many ways to create closed captions for videos. Editing software such as Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro has captioning tools built-in and allows you to write and export caption files. Caption files are uploaded alongside your video, typically in the same menu that you use to adjust the thumbnail, title and description.

Though many different kinds of caption files exist, .srt files are the file type accepted by most social networks. Uploading a video to YouTube will create automatically generated captions. These captions can be reviewed, adjusted with corrections and then downloaded as an .srt file. You can then use the downloaded .srt file to add captions to the same video on Twitter, Facebook, etc. It's recommended that the file name of the .srt file be the same as the video that it goes with, followed by .en_US.srt for captions that are in American English.

Capitalization

There are instances on social media where multiple words may have to be combined with no spacing. Usernames and hashtags are an example of this. To make them easier to read, capitalize the first letter of each word.

Example
#GoCoogs instead of #gocoogs
@UHouston instead of @uhouston

Using Other Characters to Stylize Text

Social networks do not allow you to use custom fonts for the text in posts. They also don't allow you to make words bold or italicized in the proper way. However, some people work around this by converting the text in their posts to use other special characters that are available on computers, as seen below.

𝙀𝙭𝙖𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙚𝙭𝙩 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙚𝙢𝙪𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙗𝙤𝙡𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙘𝙞𝙯𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙚𝙭𝙩.

Though the example sentence has the appearance of a sentence that is in bold and italics, it is actually using characters that are intended to be symbols that are entirely different than those that are a standard part of the alphabet. Because of this, a screen reader will not read out the sentence correctly. Therefore, any sentence using such characters is considered inaccessible.