There has been a movement on social media to make the platforms more accessible toward people with vision and hearing impairments – such as introducing closed captions/subtitles on videos and implementing invisible text under photos on instagram. The closed captions make it possible for people with hearing impairments to understand what is being said whenever there is an audio being played. On the other hand, the invisible text uses a text-to-speech method for people with vision impairments in an effort to describe the context of what has been posted. iPhones have also been great with allowing people to speak into their phones in order to send and listen to messages.
There are a few things that people can do in general to make their social media pages more accessible to people who may not be fully capable of perceiving content in the same way. For instance, making sure to use proper punctuation and phrasing would allow the text-to-speech feature to run smoothly. Another example could be ensuring that closed captions and audio descriptions are activated before creating posts, and also closed captions in general.
There has been a bit of controversy lately regarding instagram and their ‘invisible captions’. To elaborate, instagram has a feature in place for visually impaired people that lets users add a description to their posts in an invisible format so the option is there for those who cannot read them directly. However, influencers have discovered this handy tool and are using it to their advantage – promoting their posts without others realizing as a result. This works by using hashtags in their captions with the invisible feature – making it harder for visually imparied people to find the content they seek and unnecessarily flooding the servers.
Castillo, Michelle. “A blind Facebook engineer is helping to solve one of the biggest problems on the internet”. (2018).
Thank you for writing this blog post. Until now I was not aware that social media platforms were actually trying to improve themselves to be more accessible for people with disabilities. The aim is certainly a positive one and I am glad people who are impaired (with hearing or visually) have a chance to be included.
However, it is really sad to see that users take advantage of the new features in order to gain additional views, clicks, etc. This is probably the biggest downside of social media platforms. No matter what will be implemented, users who are greedy for likes or followers will use any feature which can provide them the extra exposure, even if it is not meant for them.
I can advocate for iPhone working wonders as a tool for my dad who has a hearing impairment. His hearing aids have the feature of allowing my dad to connect them to his phone via Bluetooth. With his Android phone, it did not work to the best results as it kept disconnecting and not working very well in general. However, he just recently got an iPhone, and oh my does it make a difference to speak to him on the phone! Our conversations actually make much more sense as he can actually hear my responses and what I am saying!
Now, that is not related to social media but it is amazing how technology can make aspects of life more accessible and also enjoyable in daily life, especially for people with disabilities. What I also think is interesting in this aspect is how Apple seems to have the upper hand in the market when it comes to development in smartphones and other such handy gadgets. I still prefer Android myself but they could work on catching up when it comes to assisting people with hearing disabilities!
Hey, thanks for such an insightful blog post!! Accessibility issues on social media issues have long been in discussion but this is the first time I’ve paid attention to the difference between closed captions and subtitles, and also the use of invisible text under photos on Instagram. It’s jarring to see these accessibility-enhancing tools being used by influencers to self-advertise and overload the servers but is it even possible to hold them accountable for the misuse of these tools?
It’s interesting to see how digital infrastructures that are designed to improve accessibility are themselves generating infrastructural violence and reinforcing inequalities between its users.