How to make your social media content more accessible

It’s important that we work to make our social media content as accessible to people with disabilities as possible so our content can be consumed equitably. There are a lot of tools available to us as well as tips of ways to alter your posts to make them accessible.

People with disabilities may use assistive technologies like screen readers to help them navigate social media platforms and we need to make our posts as friendly to those technologies as we can.

 

Image descriptions

These are used to convey what’s visible in any visual (e.g., image, graphic, gif, video) to someone who may not be able to see all or any of it. A screen reader will read aloud whatever is written as an image description. A good image description details any action happening, who or what is in the visual, the placement of what’s there, and even mood or emotion. Try to keep an image description to no longer than a tweet (or, 280 characters).

 

Alt text

This is a much shorter version of an image description and is usually the field or option you’ll see on a social media platform or when uploading an image to WordPress. This is intended to be a brief and direct description of what’s in the image. Not only is it used by screen readers, but if the website doesn’t load your image properly, whatever text is included as the alt tag will appear in the image’s place. Try to limit your alt text to the old school tweet length (i.e. 140 characters).

 

Image description vs alt text

Here is an example of how one of our Wolfie gifs could be described to highlight the difference between an image description and alt text.

Image description: Wolfie is standing in front of a white background and wearing a red T-shirt. He’s giving two thumbs up and shaking his hands enthusiastically.

Alt text: Wolfie giving two thumbs up.

 

Closed captioning

Captioning is the text that appears on videos, usually at the bottom, that transcribes spoken text or ambient noise in a video. This is a great way to make them more accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Plus, many people watch videos with the sound off so captioning increases the number of people who can enjoy your videos.

Some social media platforms, like YouTube, will automatically apply closed captions to a video. Unfortunately, they’re sort of notoriously inaccurate, but they are better than no closed captions on a video. The best practice is to either correct automatically produced closed captions or create your own closed captions through tools like Amara.org (which is free!).

 

Add gif and video descriptions

Though the platforms make it easy to add descriptions and alt text to images, they fall short on offering the same for gifs and videos. A great way to make these more accessible is to add your own video or gif description to the Instagram caption, Facebook caption/post or tweet. This is usually done by putting the alt text in brackets and you could indicate whether it’s alt text for a gif or video (e.g., alt gif or alt video). For example:

Wolfie wishes everyone good luck on their finals!

[alt gif: Wolfie is giving two thumbs up and shaking his hands enthusiastically]

 

Facebook accessibility

When you upload an image to Facebook, it automatically produces alt text for your images, but it’s usually inaccurate. You can change the alt text for images you’re uploading and ones you’ve previously uploaded.

 

Add alt text to new images via desktop

  1. Add an image to your post draft
  2. Hover your mouse over the image
  3. Click on the paintbrush graphic then on “alt text” on the left sidebar
  4. Click on that and you’ll see the automatically produced alt text
  5. Select “override generated alt text” and type in your description.

 

Edit alt text to previously uploaded images via desktop

  1. Find that image and click on it to make it large
  2. Hover over the image so you see a row of options appear across the bottom then select “options”
  3. Click on “change alt text” from the menu that appears and type in what you’d like

 

Edit alt text to images on mobile

  1. Tap on the image to make it large
  2. Select the three dots in the upper-right
  3. Tap on the “edit alt text” option in the menu that appears
  4. Select “override generated alt text” to apply the text you’d like

 

Instagram accessibility

Add your image to Instagram as a new post and pause when you get to the screen that asks for your caption, people to tag, and location.

  1. Swipe to the bottom and look for “advanced settings”
  2. Tap that link and swipe down to find the the “write alt text” option under “accessibility”
  3. Type your alt text in that field.

 

Twitter accessibility

Of these three platforms, Twitter is the only one that requires you to go in and turn on the accessibility feature.

 

Turn on accessibility via desktop

  1. Click on the three little dots down the left sidebar
  2. Select “settings and privacy”
  3. Click “accessibility”
  4. Turn on the “compose image descriptions” checkbox

 

Turn on accessibility via mobile

  1. Tap on the gear icon in the upper-right
  2. You may be taken to an area labeled “notifications” – if so, tap the left-facing arrow in the upper-left of the screen to take you to “settings and privacy”
  3. Tap “accessibility” then make sure “compose image descriptions” is turned on

Once you’ve enabled this feature, you can upload a photo and you should see an option that says “add description” in either the lower-left part of the image or just below the image. Click/tap that to add your alt text or image description. 

 

Write hashtags in camel case

To make hashtags more readable, capitalize the first letter of each word (also known as camel case). It can be difficult for many people to parse out the words in a hashtag, especially long ones. Not only does it make it easier for eyeballs to read, it makes it easier for screen readers to read because they can sort out and pronounce the words.

Instead of #howlaboutit, when using our official university hashtag, use #HowlAboutIt.  

 

Accessibility with graphics and text

There are a few simple things you can do to make your graphics and text more accessible.

 

Be thoughtful of color contrast with text.

White text over a light grey background will be hard to read, but white text on a red background has lots of contrast. Also be aware of certain color combinations that may make things unreadable or indistinguishable for people with color blindness (e.g., red/green, green/brown, blue/purple, green/blue, light green/yellow, blue/grey, green/grey, and green/black). 

 

Go with larger text size.

Since many social media users are using mobile devices instead of laptops, graphics can appear small on smartphone screens. The smaller the text, the harder it is to read and images can become pixelated when zooming in. Start with your text on the larger side for readability.

 

Add graphic information to alt text and/or image captions

Screen readers can’t read text on an image file/graphic, so any information conveyed in the graphic (e.g., start time for a theatre production on a theater poster) should also be in the image caption and/or alt text.

 

Avoid text over busy backgrounds

Contrast is important for color choices and busy backgrounds. If you’re placing text over a busy background, it can be more readable if you add a solid color block behind the text and in front of the busy background so people can easily see the text.

 

Add line breaks to blocks of text

Paragraph breaks aren’t just for essays and emails. Be sure to add line breaks (hit return a couple of times) between paragraphs when posting long messages on Facebook or Instagram captions. When a lot of text is together without a visual break, it can be hard for many people to read.

How to Get Text Translated

In support of Western Oregon University’s priorities around inclusion, equity and being a Hispanic Serving Institution, we are striving to provide Spanish-language information in our website content, Admissions materials and other communications. Any time you require Spanish-language information for an external audience, please follow these procedures. One exception is a letter from you with your signature that you wrote in Spanish.

WOU’s official written translation service is Oregon Certified Interpreter’s Network (OCIN). All translation tasks must run through OCIN, with whom the university has a contract and procedures in place. In order to maintain a consistent “voice” for the university and to prevent liability issues for WOU faculty and staff, information cannot be translated by an employee in place of OCIN.

Here’s how to get your English text translated into Spanish (or any language):

  1. Send an email to scheduler@oregoncertified.com
  2. Explain the details of your request and be sure to include:
    1. Your name
    2. Your contact information
    3. Attachment containing the Microsoft Word version of the English text
    4. A request for an invoice after work is complete

Important factors to note:

  • If the copy you want translated is on a website, you’ll need to copy, paste and format that text into a Word document before submitting it.
  • The cost of translation is paid from your departmental budget, just like printing is.
  • The basic rate is 18 cents per word.
  • The standard minimum is 240 words. ($43.20)
  • Rush orders are 22 cents per word with a 300-word minimum.
  • Text sent in an incorrect format or large projects that need oversight incur additional hourly fees
  • The minimum hourly fee is $60.
  • The projected turnaround time is two days for a two-page Word document and three days for up to a four-page document.

If you have questions about WOU’s translation guidelines, call 503-838-8674.

WOUmail tutorial

For emails designed to reach a campus-wide audience, WOU employees use the Internal Communications Hub, or WOUmail. Employees choose the topics they’d like to subscribe to and also determine where they will see emails – their inbox or the Portal. Employees receive emails automatically from a limited number of accounts, such as the president’s office, human resources and messages about emergencies and IT updates.

You can access the WOU Internal Communication Hub from your Portal. There, you can also set your preferences on what you will receive and where. It’s your choice whether you opt out of any category that does not pertain to you or subscribe to them all.

When you send a campus-wide message to faculty and staff (and retirees, too) you will be required to choose a category each time. Selecting a category is important, as it will be the setting that allows your colleagues (recipients) to customize what they receive. Please be thoughtful when selecting a category.

As with all technology systems, WOUmail is subject to the Acceptable Use of University Computing Resources policy.

 Watch a short video tutorial.

Video – New Kids on Campus: Connection with Generation Z

In March, MarCom presented a slideshow and talk about our current and incoming students, known as Generation Z. If you’d like to learn more about this group of students and didn’t have time to attend the lunchtime presentation, you can still watch the whole thing on WOUTV!

In the video, speaker Marion Barnes goes over the generational differences between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers and covers the preferences that are specific to Generation Z. By knowing more about the needs, desires and expectations of our incoming students, every part of the university can do a better job at helping them succeed. The audience discussion near the end provides additional insights worth waiting for.

Check out the video to learn some best practices, then put them to work in your department!

Online employee profiles

When it is time for potential students to decide which university they want to attend, one of the things that can help them choose Western Oregon University is the ability to see friendly, welcoming faces on the university website.

If they can make a visual connection with the faculty members they will be learning from and the staff members who will be helping them throughout their WOU journey, they are more likely to choose our university. In addition, robust employee profiles allow them to learn more about the people who will be part of their campus community for several years.

 

To make this a reality, you play a role! It is time to update your employee profile. (Everyone has one!) It only takes a few minutes to upload a color photo (make sure it’s just you!), paste in the URL for your personal website and include some bio information that can help potential students gain valuable insight into your background, teaching philosophy/work responsibilities and your personality.

 

Get a feel for what potential students will see by using the refreshed Find People function on the website (English Studies is a great example).

 

We’ve put together this helpful tutorial to get started. Feeling confident? Skip directly to the form. It is in your Portal under My Programs. Click on Update your employee profile.

 

Do you need a new profile photo? We can help! Choose “photography” on our work request form and we will let you know when photo sessions are planned.

The Work Request Form Demystified

In order to track and organize the work we do in MarCom, we ask that employees who want our help contact us through our work request form. Select the type of work you need from the drop-down menu, then submit all the other relevant info to that type of request and send it off to us (a copy even comes to you for your records).

Check out this closer look at the different services we offer from the work request form:

  • Business cards – when cards are needed due to running out or a change of information
  • Department-specific stationery and logos – customized versions specific to your area
  • Digital marketing – propose artwork/info to be included on digital signage, portal ads or other online-only messaging
  • Editing – submit completed text. We’ll edit for grammar/punctuation/university style. Especially helpful for work to large and/or external audiences.
  • General marketing consultation – don’t know where to start or how to spread the word? We can help!
  • Graphic design – posters, pamphlets, fliers, oh my. New projects or updates to a previous project, such as new dates and times. Need to take information, make it pretty and share it with the world? Select this category.
  • Logos and branding – club-related branding or logos for independent university programs. To find out which you are, use the Visual Identity System.
  • Photography – need a photo for a publication or your webpage, request one from our photo database or for us to take a new photo.
  • Story idea – let us know about people, events or programs who deserve recognition and attention. We use story ideas on the website, in social media and to create press releases.
  • Web design – change or update the content of a WOU webpage
  • Other – only for projects that don’t fit any above category

Getting to Know wouTV

Tucked away in University Computing Services are Deborah Rezell and wouTV, formerly known as Digital Production Services. Although not directly a part of MarCom, video is a critical part of our overall communication with the world. Many people on campus have worked with Deborah in the past, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with wouTV, here’s a quick introduction!

wouTV creates just about every video that is filmed on campus. From addresses by the president and Athletics events to guest lectures and on-campus community events, Deborah and her student workers are the team that films it all. There is an amazing studio with digital backdrops in ITC, but wouTV shoots on-location on campus most of the time.

Did you know you could hire wouTV to film your lecture, event, student organization or other university-related happening? Here’s the fee breakdown:

  • On-campus production: $100
  • Studio production: $50
  • Live stream/multi-camera event with student crew: Fee above plus student worker hours.
  • Studio/classroom lecture needed for a course: FREE

Learn more about Deborah and wouTV on WOUStories. Need the services of wouTV? Email Deborah at rezelld@wou.edu.

So You Need Business Cards

One of the most common work requests we get in MarCom is for business cards. The current design includes the tagline and mission statement and makes your name prominent. It might just be time for you to upgrade your own cards! (If you have really, really old cards with a “retired” logo, replacement is must. Use those for notes-to-self or other clever – but not public – uses.)

Ordering cards takes just one form, and we will handle ordering them from the Print Shop for you! It only takes a moment to create your card, and you can choose from a variety of different backs: mission statement, appointment form or social media. See attached examples.

Get started crafting your business cards today with our work request form.

Poster Perfection

If you advise a student organization or your department hosts multiple events throughout the academic year, chances are you’ve been involved with the poster-making process.

Although there is a great deal of freedom allowed in WOU poster designs, there are a few best practices from a branding standpoint.

  • Make sure to include the WOU logo appropriate to your group or the primary university logo. You can find logos in the downloads section of the MarCom Toolkit. (A tip: Keep in mind minimum sizes and never stretch, scrunch or change the proportions of a logo.)
  • Include the most recent disability statement. It should be clear and no smaller than 11 pt. (we suggest Arial).
  • Add our current tagline in one of three ways: the corner sticker, within the logo or text (Arial, all caps, third word bold. TOGETHERWE SUCCEED).

Want a head start? We have created a handy black bar that includes all three items in one convenient footer that rests happily at the bottom of your poster, leaving you plenty of space to promote your event or activity. These “poster pieces” can be found in the MarCom toolkit downloads.

A special reminder about getting your posters posted: Check out Student Affairs’ Campus Posting Guidelines.

Toolkit Tutorial

Your colleagues in MarCom have created a bunch of resources to make your work life easier and to promote WOU’s brand identity. If you are the type of person who worries your visual design skills are limited, our templates help take the pressure off. Find what you need on the downloads page of the MarCom Toolkit.

Of course, the toolkit is not just about downloads. You’ll also find a wide range of guidelines, messaging templates and graphic identity resources.

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WOU prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in all programs, activities and employment practices as required by Title IX, other applicable laws, and policies. Retaliation is prohibited by WOU.