Guest post by Mario Damiani, Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor
Today the new Federal Social Media Accessibility Working Group launches an initiative to tackle the challenges of accessibility in social media. We will work together with the federal community in pursuit of better access to social technologies for all, as well as the people and communities who rely on these programs and services. The first deliverable is a new, evolving tool kit that agencies, companies or anyone can use to help ensure their social content is accessible to persons with disabilities and all who need it, so that together we can collaborate and benefit from the full promise of social media.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is pleased to lead the Social Media Accessibility Working Group, which includes participants from nine agencies who also contributed to the tool kit. Through this working group, we collaborated closely with our partners from the General Services Administration and other members as part of the Federal Social Media Community of Practice to find solutions to many of the accessibility issues related to the use of social media.First, it’s important to look at three notable social media trends:
- The increase in the number of employers, organizations, and federal agencies who use social media to interact with their communities and stakeholders (including for recruitment).
- The increase in the number of jobseekers with and without disabilities who are using social media to look for and apply to jobs, discuss job openings and job-search tips, create résumés, and establish networks of professional connections.
- The increased need to use images and videos to promote engagement, which without accessibility considerations make participation in services difficult for persons with disabilities and others.
To encourage meaningful and inclusive citizen engagement, and to maximize the benefit that social media can provide to jobseekers, entrepreneurs and all citizens, it is essential that social media be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
A Web Accessibility In Mind May 2012 survey of more than 1600 screen reader users found that:
- Only 7.4 percent of users rated social media web sites as “very accessible”
- 46.8 percent giving a rating of “somewhat accessible”
- 25 percent said “somewhat inaccessible”
- 8.7 percent “very inaccessible”
- 12 percent responded “I don’t know”
Despite continuing advances in technology and strategies, survey respondents also reported that they found social media sites to be less accessible than was reported in December 2010. Together we have a responsibility to do better.
The Social Media Accessibility Working Group and its partners have compiled an initial list of accessibility and usability tips from social media managers across the federal government, but this is truly just a start. We need your input to improve and add to these insights, and to keep the living document up-to-date not just for government but for all organizations. This product is not final – it’s just the beginning of an ongoing conversation we encourage everyone to take part in.