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Social Media Accessibility

If you contribute to a social media property on behalf of WVU, the content you provide must be accessible.

What does this mean? For starters, please read our section on Accessibility for Content Creators. This gives you a high-level overview of how to write accessible content.

Captioning on Social Media

Some of the most influential content on social media is audio and video. WVU is federally required to provide text alternatives for multimedia (audio and video) according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

To find out more about how to get started with captioning, see our guide:

Captioning Audio and Video


Side by side comparison of emoji rendering on one screen and not another

It’s tempting to use emoji on social media to communicate feeling or personality. Before using emoji, follow these guidelines:

  • Use emoji sparingly and appropriately, if at all
  • Put them at the end of messages, or beside their meaning.
    • Say, “I ate pizza! 🍕” and not “I ate 🍕!”
  • Don’t rely on emoji for your primary message.
    • Imagine if the emoji in your message didn’t render. Would the primary message remain intact?
  • Use emoji that’s widely available across all operating systems and devices
    • The Unicode Consortium frequently releases new Emoji Lists; however, devices and operating systems are much slower to adopt new List versions. This can lead to broken emojis.
  • Don’t use emojis to communicate numbers (write 2020 instead of 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣0️⃣)
  • Keep in mind that emoji render differently on different devices and operating systems. Sometimes, you can end up sending a specific reaction emoji on your own device, and it looks totally different on someone else’s.
  • Emoji are tied to specific words. Screen readers and natural language processors (like Siri and Alexa) will read the CLDR Short Name of the emoji.
    • So, “Awesome! 🙂” might read: “Awesome! slightly smiling face”.

Unicode characters

Unicode characters, the characters you often see as people’s Twitter names or inside messages on social media platforms, are completely inaccessible. The following is an example of Unicode characters:


Sighted users will recognize the word “Recap”. But to screen reader users, the following is spoken:

Mathematical sans-serif bold capital R, mathematical sans-serif bold e, mathematical sans-serif bold c…

Case in point, do not use Unicode characters on social media. They are inaccessible. Stick to common characters to reach more people.


When using hashtags, capitalize each word in a hashtag. Capitalizing words in hashtags helps people using assistive technologies understand them. For example, write #BlackHistoryMonth instead of #blackhistorymonth so assistive technologies read "black history month" instead of "blackhistorymonth".

Images & alt text on social media

One of the most important parts of making images accessible is to provide a text alternative. This is commonly referred to as "alt text". Content authors should strive to keep alt text short. A guideline is 125 characters or less.

Image guidelines

It may be tempting to share a text-heavy image with your post. Do not do this. Instead, design your post's image specifically for social media. Keep the text in the post's image to a minimum (if any).

Remember: any text in a post's image should also be listed as alt text for the post's image. If your alt text is longer than 125 characters, chances are you'll have to redesign your post's image.

It is important to know how to write alt text so WVU's content is accessible everywhere. The following sections outline how to add alt text to your images on the major social platforms:


To enable alt text on Twitter, go to Settings > Accessibility > check "Compose image descriptions". 

Twitter's platform lets you include custom alt text in your images. They have official documentation about how to enable alt text on Twitter.

Since Twitter does not enter alt text automatically, users must enter alt text when tweeting. If they don't, alt text will not be present and will be in violation of WVU's accessibility policies.

Screenshot of the Facebook UI showing where to find and edit alt text. Click "Options" > "Change Alt Text".     


Facebook allows custom alt text. Please Follow their official alt text documentation for writing customized alt text. Ensure you include customized alt text with each Facebook post.

If you don't write customized alt text, Facebook uses machine learning to recognize what's in a photo. That leads to alt text like: Image may contain: sky, night and outdoor. While better than nothing, it is woefully vague. Always write custom alt text.


As of November 2018, Instagram lets users customize alt text. It uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate alt text, but WVU urges you customize the alt text for each Instagram post.

Instagram has provided detailed alt text instructions in their help center. Users may customize alt text at the time of posting via Advanced Settings or after posting via "Add Alt Text".


Pinterest attempts to use the alt text from the originating website. So, to have good alt text on Pinterest, make sure to write alt text on your website.

The add description button enables users to add alt text to images on LinkedIn.     


LinkedIn allows users to include alt text with photos uploaded to their platform. After uploading a photo, click the "Add Description" button to add alt text to your image.