Creating Inclusive & Accessible Veterinary Social Media Content: Proven Strategies
We touched on this in our Community Chats panel session at VETstagram 2023, but with only 30minutes, we wanted to share some further resources too for accessible veterinary content.
1. Create Dyslexia Friendly Content
Use sans serif fonts for body text.
Avoid excessive underlining and italics.
Use sentence and lowercase, rather than all capitals letters.
Use dark coloured text on a light (not white) background.
Avoid green & red/pink, which are also difficult those who have colour blindness.
The British Dyslexia Association has a Dyslexia Friendly Style Guide on their website which has lots more information.
2. Use the Alt Text function for accessible veterinary content
Alt text is a brief description of images used for accessibility, allowing visually impaired users to understand the content.
Imagine you write a caption that goes with an image, but you can't see the image due to visual impairment. Suddenly a tonne of value is lost from the post. Adding alt text means screen readers can explain a snippet of what the image is about.
You can watch a very short YouTube video on how to add alt text on Instagram here.
Harvard University has a great resource on how to write good Alt text here.
Some social media gurus believe editing alt text might help with the SEO of your posts, but we're talking about using it for those who might miss out on your posts otherwise!
3. Use bloomin' captions on your video content
Adding captions to videos enables those with impaired hearing to be able to access your content too.
That aside, it is commonly cited that 75% of Facebook videos are watched with no sound. Missing captions means nearly three quarters of people won't benefit from your content! 😱
Adding captions to your videos will help others benefit from your content in multiple ways.
Most platforms now have the option for built in captions, or a caption button that can be found in ‘stickers’. You can see a quick walkthrough of adding captions to Instagram Reels here.
This is also your nudge to go and enable closed captions in Zoom! Zoom's native closed captions aren't perfect, but they're better than not having captions at all.
4. Consider your language (and your audience)
Consider your audience. Bear in mind that the average UK reading age in the UK is cited as between 9 and 12 years old. This is not said in a derogatory sense, but to bear in mind readability.
Readability data suggests that the Guardian newspaper has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8. (Ref: Ascento)
Use short sentences. Avoid jargon, slang and unnecessary technical terms. If you’re unsure if a post is too technical, ask a non-veterinary based friend or loved one to read over it. Ask what they took from it or learned. Everyone has different areas of expertise, let's ensure we are passing on ours in a way that is understandable.
5. Let's avoid inadvertently adding to mental health stigma in wording
Sometimes the words and phrases used day to day, add to stigma, even if we don't mean that to be the case. Let's find alternatives instead, here are some useful examples:
Whilst on this topic, let's remember to also add signposting to posts that address emotive topics. It's valuable to give the contact number and/or website link too, not just referencing the name of the service.
Let's go from:
"If you're struggling, call Vetlife"
"Please remember that Vetlife is available 24/7 in the UK. Vetlife provides independent, confidential and free help for everyone in the veterinary community including veterinary nurses, students and non-clinical staff. You can call them on 0303 040 2551, or find out more about their email support here: https://www.vetlife.org.uk/how-we-can-help/"
Ok, sometimes this is tricky to add in full, but it can be a comment too.
Remember, we hosted Dr. Rosie Allister to run this incredibly insightful and free session too on how we can talk more responsibly about emotive topics online:
6. Capitalise your hashtags where appropriate
This means that everyone can read and understand your hashtags correctly.
Here's a story for you 👀...
When Margaret Thatcher died, the hashtag # nowthatcherisdead was trending.
Whilst many people read it as # NowThatcherIsDead, there were also others who read it as # NowThatCherIsDead. A rumour started that Cher had died!
7. Be inclusive in your imagery (and beyond too!)
Let’s make representing people from underrepresented backgrounds non-negotiable. In recent years, we’ve seen more representation in TV shows and movies, and social media should be no different.
This might include race, age, gender, background, sexuality, religion, neurodiversity or disability. Equally, try to avoid stereotypes.
Let’s make this more than simply performative social media action and stock images though. Let’s also be active allies in real life too! Let’s educate ourselves and raise the voices of others. Please support wonderful organisations such as BVEDS, BVCIS, BVLGBT+ and BlendVet too.
8. Check your privilege and consider other perspectives
Let’s curiously start to notice our own advantages and biases. How can we do our best not to inadvertently exclude others reading?
Instead of saying "Everyone can easily use this app," say "This app is designed to be accessible to a wide range of users, including those with disabilities."
“Go for a run on your lunch break”, instead we might say “Getting some fresh air on your lunchbreak, this might include going for a run, a walk or being sat outside.”
Instead of "Brushing your dog's teeth is easy and should be performed daily", consider "Over time, many dogs will allow their teeth to be brushed daily, which can have many benefits. We also appreciate this might not always feel possible for some pets and guardians. As a clinic team, we are always happy to discuss alternatives and strategies, taking into account individual needs"
Let’s remember that everyone has different backgrounds, cultures, financial situations, experiences, and more. We are human, and sometimes we might not get it right. Let's keep being willing to learn and have open discussions on these topics.
9. Avoid custom fonts in captions
Custom fonts in captions might look nice*, but they aren't always picked up by screen readers.
*Up for debate...
You might see on some platforms that creators have fancy fonts in their captions, with italics or handwriting styles. These are often sourced from websites that create this text and it can be copied and pasted. Those who are visually impaired often can't access this as their screen reader doesn't understand it as a font. Bear this in mind when thinking about your messaging.
10. Ask and be willing to learn
There’s always going to be more to learn, sometimes we won’t get it right.
I used to use custom fonts alllll the time for years, I just never knew. I also created tonnes of posts that were probably difficult to access, I had no idea at the time.
Let’s keep considering the people consuming our content, be open to feedback and be willing to keep learning.
You can search and learn about all of these things and more. What will you spend some time exploring?
If you're keen to learn more about content creation and web page accessibility, Skillshare has thousands of courses on a variety of topics. You can nab a free month (and cancel at any time) here.
Have an ace week!
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