People access content in different ways. For example, some people may use assistive technology such as screen readers and magnification. No matter how people consume content, it should be accessible.

By not making content accessible, brands and organisations are missing out on reaching a large audience. Making social media content accessible isn’t just for blind and partially sighted people; it benefits everyone. With all the positives in mind, accessibility is often overlooked by brands and organisations. Common attitudes include: ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘It takes too much time,’ and ‘It’s not needed.’ Quite frankly, those attitudes are not good enough.

When brands and organisations don’t make their content accessible, they ultimately diminish the reach and effectiveness of their comms.

Part of the problem is the rapid-response, fast-turnaround nature of social media. As communications professionals, we always aim to be among the first to jump on social media for the latest trends and or newsjacking opportunities. In our rush to be first out of the blocks, the accessibility considerations can be left behind. This is wrong. No quest for higher engagement stats should come at the price of excluding people from accessing your content.

It might take a couple of extra minutes to add an image description, but the result is worth it.

Accessibility is more than good practice; it shows that you care. Despite the benefits of making content accessible, brands and organisations are still falling short. They do not follow simple accessibility practices such as adding alt text or image descriptions, adding captions or subtitles to videos, capitalising the first letter of each word within hashtags and not using too many emojis.

When you scroll through social media feeds, accessible content is the minority, rather than the majority. This needs to change.

If people can’t access the information brands and organisations are sharing, it leaves them feeling frustrated. The bottom line is that they’ll click off, unlikely to return again. Is that what you want?

Brands and organisations should be setting an example for everyone else. Accessibility should be an integral part of any organisation, including all communications. If it isn’t, then why not?

The responsibility for making content accessible shouldn’t just fall on an individual or a team of comms professionals. Social media platforms have a role to play, too. We’re going in the right direction; Twitter has introduced a feature that reminds people to add alt text to their images, and TikTok has a text-to-speech function.

Enterprising and creative individuals have taken this one step further: there are a number of Twitter bots that will respond to tweets where the image does not have alt text, and a bot that will create captions for videos. While these are great, there’s still a long way to go.

The reality for me and many other people affected by sight loss is that society simply isn’t designed with accessibility in mind. This extends well beyond our industry. However, as professional communicators who can reach large numbers of people, we have the chance to play our part in creating a more accessible and inclusive environment for our audiences.

Let’s make sure we seize it.

Holly Tuke is social media officer at the Royal National Institute of Blind People and disability blogger at Life of a Blind Girl.


This article originally appeared on PRWeek US.