Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photo by Robert Scoble. Creative commons license.

Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites, with one billion users. You’d think Facebook would be an extremely accessible site for people with disabilities, but that’s not exactly the case. Thankfully, there are a few ways we can collectively make Facebook more accessible for users of all abilities. Here are three simple ways we can do just that.

1. Trigger & Content Warnings.

There have been many discussions on whether content warnings are effective or not, but contrary to popular belief, they’re extremely helpful. These warnings help folks know what a post is going to be about. This way, it’s not something they’re comfortable reading, they can avoid it.

For many people who have experienced trauma, or who have mental illnesses like PTSD, navigating social media can be tough. You never know when you’re going to see something that throws you into a panic or a bout of flashbacks, self-loathing, or even self-harm. Triggers are very real and should be taken seriously, not trivialized or discredited. People don’t have control over what triggers them; it’s not a choice. To put it simply, the brain has the wheel and decides where we go. If you see something, like a post about Brock Turner, and your brain throws you into flashbacks of your sexual assault, you don’t really have a choice.

Related: In Defense of Trigger Warnings: A Trauma Survivor’s Perspective

This is one of the biggest accessibility tools, and yet so few people see the importance or validity of it. We need to make social media safe and accessible space for trauma and sexual assault survivors of all kinds. Folks need to understand that mental illnesses are disabilities that need accommodations just like physical/visible disabilities.

Aside from simply posting “CW/TW:_____,” you can also post possibly triggering content, like photos or articles, in the comment section of your Facebook posts. You can also write your content warning(s), and then press the “.” key followed by the enter key a few times. This will force Facebook to insert a “see more” link into your post, which will hide potentially triggering content.

Photo of a facebook post from Nik Angel Moreno that was posted Sept. 28, 2016 at 6:33pm that reads "CW: Police brutality, Death of Black folks by police. Non Black folks esp, please read!"

An example of hiding triggering content under a “See More.”

Here’s a pretty extensive list of content warnings for you to consider for your future posts.

2. Image Descriptions.

Image descriptions let people with vision-related disabilities know what’s going on in a photo. Things like who is in the photo, what they’re doing, what they’re wearing and more. You can also add descriptions or transcriptions when you share screenshots of other posts or memes. These let folks know what the screenshot or meme says, when it was posted, who posted it, etc.

These descriptions are great because it allows text-to-speech readers on devices like phones, laptops and tablets read posts to social media users. Many vision-impaired folks use text-to-speech readers to navigate the ‘net. For more rad examples and information on image descriptions, check out Hub Page’s article on Image Descriptions and Alt Text. If you make a post on Facebook, but don’t have the energy to write a description, you can ask your friends and followers to write one for you in the comments and then copy and paste it into your original post.

3. Closed Captions and Transcripts.

Many publications are communicating through videos, which can create a bigger audience, but also an accessibility problem. Providing closed captions or video transcripts can help folks who are deaf or hard of hearing know what is being said in a video.

Sites like YouTube have automatic closed captions, but they’re often extremely inaccurate, which can cause confusion. Having correct transcripts or closed captions on a video is very helpful. Even on small videos like vines. In fact, there are blogs on Tumblr that are solely dedicated to just captioning vines. Just like with image descriptions, if you don’t have the energy or emotional or mental capacity to write out closed captions or transcripts, simply ask friends and followers to help out.

Related: 5 More Phrases That are Actually Ableist

All three of these tips are very simple for able-bodied people to do, but they all mean a great deal to those with disabilities. While Facebook has made strides for accessibility, like photo recognition that lets visually impaired users know what photos might contain, we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, these are some really awesome ways to bridge the gap for Facebook users with disabilities, so we feel safe and included.

 

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