The City of Helsinki’s social media accessibility guide

This guide is also available as a PDF file:

The City of Helsinki wants to communicate accessibly, i.e. so that our online contents and services are easy for all people to approach. We take accessibility into consideration in our social media communications as well. We do so by utilising the settings and functions provided by social media channels, such as alt texts for images that the aid devices of visually impaired users can read, thus improving the accessibility of contents. Whenever we publish image or video material, we add this alt text or video captions to the files. If an image contains text, it is also mentioned in its alt text. This set of instructions provides practical tips for adding alt texts to files.

Keep the following in mind:

●  Publishing materials on social media is not a way to circumvent the accessibility requirements.

●  Live streams do not have to be captioned. If a video is preserved for more than 14 days, captions must be provided for it. In practice, captions can be added directly to the live stream file on Facebook, for example. We do not recommend removing videos, because when you do, these videos are not shown in the page coverage and you will lose the data.

●  Today, the Helsinki Group sometimes uses Facebook events exclusively to provide information about events. This is not an accessible solution because it requires users to have a Facebook account. In other words, providing information and communicating about events on Facebook does not fulfil the City’s obligation to provide information equally. As such, the same information should always be available on our website as well.

●  If a video does not contain instructions regarding public services or similar significant information that is not available elsewhere, or if the video is made just for fun, for example, an identifier or description is added to the title or captions. In practice, the text can indicate that the video is just for entertainment, whereby the content of the video is indicated accessibly. In other words, there is no need to caption everything word for word.

● Take the accessibility requirements into account from the start when planning a video production! For example, dialogue should be planned where possible so that it will provide sufficient information about the essential visual content as well, eliminating the need to create a separate audio description afterwards. If the production utilises an external partner, you should discuss the possibility of using captions right at the start.

● In practice, video captions can be created by embedding a text directly into the video file or, alternatively, utilising the captioning tools of social media channels. The following sections provide channel-specific instructions.

Accessibility on Facebook

Alt text

Facebook has its own accessibility team to develop the platform’s accessibility features. The accessibility instruction page of Facebook provides clear instructions on how alternative descriptions can be easily added to images published on Facebook.

Here are the instructions in brief:

– When making a post, select ‘Photo/video.’ Select the image to be published on your computer and place the mouse pointer over the image.
– Above the image, select ‘Edit photo’ (brush icon).
– On the left side, select ‘Alt text’ (magnifying glass icon).
– If the alt text field already has an automatically created description, you can replace it with your own text by selecting ‘Override generated alt text.’ Done! Publish the image.

Important notes on alt texts on Facebook

The user’s language settings on Facebook will affect alt texts

Finnish is currently not included in the list of languages supported by Facebook’s image accessibility settings. Visually impaired users must select English as the language in their own Facebook settings in order to have alt texts read by a screen reader. If the user has Finnish as the Facebook user interface language, their screen reader will not read the alt text of the image. In other words, the post author’s own Facebook language settings make no difference. Screen readers are able to read alt texts with Finnish pronunciation even if the user has selected English as the Facebook user interface language.

Alt texts can only be added with a computer

At least for the time being, alt texts can only be added with a computer, not with mobile devices. As such, if you have materials such as pictures taken at an event with a mobile phone, you should send them to a person who is able to add alt texts to them by using the full version of Facebook on a computer.

If an alt text cannot be added, describing the essential content of the image in the text of the post is recommended

If an image is on a website being linked to, the alt text is written on that site. Alt texts cannot be provided for such images on Facebook.

Automatic alt text

Today, Facebook also has an automatic AI-based object identification feature that can produce an alt text for an image, i.e. describe the contents of the image for visually impaired people using aid devices. You should approach the automatically produced description with a critical eye and think about whether the description is appropriate, whether it needs to be complemented or whether it should be replaced entirely with a new text.

Video captions

Facebook features a tool for adding captions to videos as SRT files: Instructions for adding captions on the Facebook help pages.

Accessibility on Instagram

Alt text

Alternative descriptions can be added to images on Instagram. The ‘How do I edit the alternative text for a photo on Instagram?’ page on Instagram provides instructions for adding an alternative description to an image or editing an existing description.

Video captions

Instagram has no tool for adding video captions, so the video must be captioned before uploading it to Instagram with a video editing application or program.

Accessibility on Twitter

Alt text

Alternative descriptions can be added to images on Twitter:

– You can use the settings on both the full version of Twitter on a browser and the mobile version.
– You can use alt texts on Twitter by adjusting your account settings. If you use the full version, go to ‘Settings and privacy’ and select the last item on the page navigation menu, the ‘Accessibility’ subpage.
– Select ‘Compose image descriptions’ and save the changes.
– Now when you publish images on Twitter, you can add alt texts to them by using the ‘Add description’ bar at the bottom of the image. This function is available in the mobile version of Twitter as well.

Video captions

Captions can be added to videos uploaded to Twitter as SRT files: Instructions for adding captions on Twitter’s Media Studio.

Accessibility on LinkedIn

Alt text

Alternative descriptions can be added to images on LinkedIn. After uploading an image, click on the pencil icon in the upper right corner and fill out the ‘Add description’ section.

Video captions

Captions can be added to videos uploaded to LinkedIn as SRT files in the video editing settings: Instructions for adding captions on LinkedIn.

Accessibility on YouTube

Alt text

YouTube is primarily intended for publishing videos, not images, so adding alt texts is not needed.

Video captions

Captions can be added to YouTube videos with YouTube’s own tool: YouTube’s quite detailed and comprehensive instructions for adding captions.

Accessibility in the Sprout Social publishing tool

Alt text

At the moment, the Sprout Social tool can be used to add alt texts to Twitter posts only, as the current application programming interface settings of other channels prevent this.

Video captions

The Sprout Social tool cannot be used to add video captions.

In practice, when you publish an image on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter via Sprout Social, you must retroactively edit the alt text with the tools of the channel. You should also upload videos to the channels directly for the same reason. Sprout Social is expected to be developed in this respect in the near future, but this development also depends on the development rate of the interfaces of Facebook and other platforms.

Social media feeds, such as Flockler. The focus features of the platform are appropriate, making the content accessible. Alt texts are not automatically imported from social media platforms, but they can be set manually on Flockler. We recommend this.