As digital marketers, you need to remember to step outside of your own lived experience when creating content. Your target audience is still incredibly diverse – they don’t necessarily look like you or act like you or experience the world the way that you do. And that’s how you need to create content.

Alexa Heinrich

How do you build an accessible and inclusive social media and website? Alexa Heinrich is here with us to give us insight into the world of online accessibility.
What you can expect from this episode:

  • Website design and accessibility
  • Best practices for accessibility on different platforms
  • Myths about website and social media accessibility
  • Tips on how to use emojis to be accessible in your comments
  • How diverse disability actually is
  • More of Alexa’s thoughts on creating inclusive content

Read the full transcript

Alexa Heinrich 0:00
When I create content, I think about how someone with hearing loss or vision loss is going to experience my content. How would someone with a cognitive disability experience my content, you have to think like that. And I know it feels like extra, but it’s really not. Because if you’re not creating accessible content, that’s a missing piece of your content creation process, not an additional piece.

Meg Casebolt 0:23
You’re listening to social slowdown a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. I’m your host, Meg Casebolt. And I have a new book coming out called Social slowdown. It’s taking all of the 80 plus interviews that we’ve done so far in this podcast series, and turned it into something that’s a little bit more easily digestible. It will be available on July 27 2023. And it’ll only be $4 on Kindle and $9. On paperback. So I would love, love, love, if you could support the podcast by going on Amazon and buying the book. If you preorder it, I would especially appreciate that because that would help us get to a best seller status. Even if you don’t read it. That’s okay. So if you want to get your copy of the social slowdown book, head on over to social and get that today. And now let’s get back to the podcast, which is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lip sync, send cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7. Let’s get started. Hello, everyone, it’s Meg Casebolt. I am the host of social slowdown. And I am here with Alex Heinrich, who I have never met before. But as I have been working on the social slowdown book, I was looking specifically for resources around how to make your social media more accessible. And Alex has created accessible And I was like, let’s just hop on and have a conversation. So thank you so much for being here with me.

Alexa Heinrich 2:02
Thanks for having me excited to chat about accessibility best practices for social media.

Meg Casebolt 2:08
And also 100% allowed to rant about whatever you want to this is a very open platform for their favorite. Exactly. As I was writing the draft, I was like, here are the list of things that pissed me off about accessibility and social media. So that will go into the actual book. But let’s have this conversation first, which is like your you started as a social media strategist. And then I’ve read on the Accessible Social website. And then you realize just how little information there was out there. So you built this entire resource, right? So tell me a little bit about that process and how that worked for you.

Alexa Heinrich 2:45
Yeah, so I am a social media manager for a college. And I’ve always worked in higher education. I’ve usually always worked in marketing. Social media is really where I found my like groove of what I wanted to do with my career. And as a lot of social media professionals find I had other job duties as assigned with my last job. And one of them involved kind of updating the website is on our homepage at the organization that I worked for in Chicago. Pretty easy, straightforward. And I was doing that the one day and the digital strategies on my team, my good friend asked me she’s like, Oh, are you? Are you adding alt text to those? And I kind of just looked at her like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Because my background was in graphic design, advertising, marketing. Accessibility wasn’t really something that we learned about when I was in school. That’s really something that was more for web developers. And she explained what it was for. And I kind of just remember having this overwhelming sense of panic, and going home and doing all this research into like, what does all text mean for digital communications, and then I remember crying, because I felt really bad that I had been possibly creating barriers for people trying to get an education. Now I know like, now thinking about it. That was probably hyperbole. In my case, I know that I wasn’t actively being a barrier. You know, social media isn’t where our students were getting like all their information. But still, I wanted to be better about the content that I created for that institution. So I started doing all this research into what accessibility meant for social media. And it was not an easy process because most of the information out there is for websites and other digital communications and how you can make those accessible. Social media is really still too new despite being 20 at this point, to gain that kind of interest from Yeah, accessibility because

Meg Casebolt 5:00
social media can drink now, can’t it like Facebook? could go to the bar? Yep, Instagram could get married, like, these aren’t nascent new boring platforms anymore. These are mega, like Mega billion dollar conglomerates and we’re treating them like, oh, but they’re the new guys, because the web has been around since Al Gore invented it.

Alexa Heinrich 5:18
Exactly. Exactly. So yeah, it just, it really became a passion project for me. And I always get people asking like, oh, well, you must have you started doing accessibility because you know, you yourself have a disability that impacts how you use digital communications. And at the time that that was not true, I just wanted to do better for everyone else.

Meg Casebolt 5:46
You don’t have to have a disability in order to be compassionate, and sympathetic and want to support people who have a disability. And to be able to make something that’s accessible to people who have different disabilities than you do is just a good practice.

Alexa Heinrich 6:01
Exactly. And I’ve come to realize through my accessibility work, I do now identify as disabled in a number of different ways, which is you’re really eye opening as you kind of delve into that more. But I do heavily rely on captions for my video content. Because while I don’t have serious hearing loss right now, I do cognitively process information better when it’s in a visual format, rather than an audio format, which is something you learn as a kid.

Meg Casebolt 6:31
I remember in it was third or fourth grade, we had this unit on learning styles. It was learning styles. You can be an image person, or like a reading person or an auditory person or a kinesthetic learner. I specifically remember that phrase of kinesthetic learner, being tactile, and like all of the sensory inputs. And it was just like, well, this is how different people learn. And I remember taking a quiz that was like your 30% video, or like images and 20%, audio and 10%. Like they ranked them up. But it was never like, here’s how you can make sure everyone is able to learn from this. It was just like, well, this is what works for you. And I’m similar to you in that it wasn’t until I was 35 that I went Hmm. Maybe there’s some I don’t know how old you are. I’m not saying that was the similarity. But for me, it was being 35. And being in a pandemic and needing to homeschool a kid who I met who neither of us could sit still. And I was like, Maybe you should look at this ADHD thing. And the more I looked into ADHD, honestly, I learned that I had an auditory processing issue from rennet.

Alexa Heinrich 7:38
I feel like run it and tic tac have kind of led the charge on self diagnosis when it comes to neuro divergence and disability. And it’s, it’s been really eye opening for a lot of people. But I mean, that just goes to show how diverse disability actually is. I mean, disability is the only diverse community that you can join and leave or be part of different areas of it. So this all is kind of stuff that I try to educate people on when it comes to accessibility for social media, because I get a lot of people that are like, Well, why would someone who’s blind be on Instagram? Well, they might not have always been blind. Also, why wouldn’t they? They still deserve the same level of access to information on Instagram that anyone else does. So

Meg Casebolt 8:25
right, they can still DM they can still quickly consume content. Why are you why are you on Instagram? Why do you feel like that will be different for somebody just because they may have some vision loss, or they may have some hearing loss. And like, as you and I are discussing, disability doesn’t always look like inability to use a specific sensory input. It’s like, I can hear everything. But if I need to actually learn something, I have to read

Alexa Heinrich 8:53
it. Yep, exactly. Which

Meg Casebolt 8:55
is, ironically, I’m a host a podcast. By

Alexa Heinrich 9:02
podcast, you can write transcripts for them, you can catch them if you do podcast with visual. So, you know, there’s lots of ways to make all content more accessible for just about anyone in

Meg Casebolt 9:15
multiple ways. And most of the information on the internet, like you were saying is very much for you know, oh, you’re gonna need to be on YouTube. So you should add captions. Its creators who or you know, you’re recording a podcast, make sure to do a transcript on it to that too, as an SEO person like, hey, Google can’t listen to your podcast, go do a transcript. So that way it has something to index, right. Like there are other benefits of having these accessible conversations beyond that, and then, you know, with with Wave accessibility, there’s so much information out there about web accessibility, and you know, the little accessible pop ups that you can get the add things to your website, but so many people are getting their key pieces of information. him from social media and social media is not. It can be accessible, but it’s not built into the platforms. So it’s still up to us as creators to make sure that we’re doing it our best. So let’s talk about that, like, what are some of those best practices on different platforms. And then if you want to leap into some of the politics behind it, I’m here for that. To

Alexa Heinrich 10:26
be clear, most of the platforms do make it a lot easier now to make accessible content. My big gripe with a lot of platforms is they don’t share they make these features available. But they don’t do a very good job of explaining to users and content creators how to go about making their content accessible, or why it’s important. So there’s that education gap. But you know, writing alt text for images so that someone using a screen reader can access that information. You’re capturing videos, as we explained, even how you format hashtags makes a big, big impact on how someone has access to your content. Because if you have an all lowercase hashtag, and it’s got multiple words in it could become one long mishmash word, if it’s read by a screen reader, which a lot of people don’t realize.

Meg Casebolt 11:18
So instead, you’re supposed to use what’s called Camel case, camel case, or

Alexa Heinrich 11:22
Pascal case either works. There actually, camel case is actually a web developer term AI isn’t really learned Yes, because they’re like, you’re telling people the wrong way to do camel case. And that’s like, I’m so sorry, marketing, kind of took your term and perverted it a little bit. But as long as they’re formatting their hashtags correctly, that’s all I can call whatever you want, as long as the hashtag is formatted properly.

Meg Casebolt 11:49
Exactly. Yeah, that was something I learned from your website. I was like, Well, I’m gonna put this in the book, because I learned this new term. But now it’s not the right term. And this is the internet of information works is that we get as good of information as we can. But all of these things are also constantly changing, you know. And my understanding, too, is that often these platforms are rolling out new features. And then it isn’t until they get pushback from the disabled community where they say, Wait, what about us, but they’re like, oh, yeah, we should think about that.

Alexa Heinrich 12:18
Big thing behind how Twitter developed a lot of their current accessibility features is based on feedback or pushback from the disability community. They released the beta version of their audio tweets a couple years ago, which was a cool feature. But there was no transcript or caption feature for those betas for the those beta audio tweets. And they immediately got pushed back. And they came out like the next day and said, You know what, you are totally right, we’re so sorry. This was something that we did not think about. And we’re going to do better, which I kind of rolled my eyes at at the time was your major platform telling us that you’re going to do better, that so rarely happens. And then I think it was about two months later, they released a whole like blog post about what they were going to do to support accessibility more. They actually created a devoted team for accessibility, not just like a volunteer group within Twitter of employees who had an interest in accessibility, it was actually the accessibility experience team. And they were very transparent moving forward about how they handled accessibility and building it into the platform and its features. So yeah, having that level of transparency from a major platform was really a big deal, because the other platforms still don’t really do that. So it was really nice. So yeah, I really miss the accessibility experience team at Twitter, because they are no longer there. Thanks. Thanks, Elon. And there hasn’t been much progress with accessibility, the platform since that team was laid off, which is really sad because Twitter has since rolled out features that aren’t necessarily accessible, like longer tweets on Twitter that have the Show More cut, those are not accessible in the feed. So a screen reader device does not pick up on the show market. It just stopped reading. So yeah, it’s really it’s disheartening when platforms just completely disregard accessibility and basically exclude an entire community from accessing content on the platforms and sometimes really vital information. That is the reality that we deal with.

Meg Casebolt 14:45
And the community that they are exclusionary towards, are often the ones that I don’t want to say they cannot get information in different ways, but social media is so often a place where they’re congregating because As if you have some sort of, you know, physical, especially physical but cognitive also disability like, you may not be able to get out and about in the community as easily. Yeah, yeah. And that was more dependent on social media, which is not able to give you the information that you need, even though it can give it to people who do have the ability to gather it in different ways.

Alexa Heinrich 15:21
Yeah. And that’s been a big topic of discussion since Twitter was sold last fall was how the disability community, you know, we rely heavily on Twitter for engaging with each other and staying connected, and sharing information. And suddenly, not only is accessibility not a priority on the platform, but the platform itself has become more hostile and less of a community because of the changes that have been implemented. Since new ownership took over. Sadly,

Meg Casebolt 15:57
it’s really hard, and especially when you have you’ve developed those relationships on a specific platform like Twitter, you can’t just say, Okay, guys, we’re off, we’re going to LinkedIn, right? Like getting once you’ve established yourself, it’s almost like there’s a sunk cost there of, I’ve established myself as a thought leader in this space, I’ve built all these different systems to be able to check in with people, especially I think, especially with Twitter, it’s almost more addictive than some of the other platforms because it moves so quickly. So like people who love Twitter, like are loved past tense, maybe it was the first thing that they checked in the morning. I’m speaking specifically of like, people who were like Lin Manuel Miranda forgot to say goodnight to us, and now I can’t go to sleep. Because he’ll say good morning, every day, or you did like say it on Twitter every day. And people would be like, Good morning, Lin Manuel. Yeah, like, it’s, it’s a place where people were in those communities, even if you don’t necessarily have a one to one relationship, it was an easy space to access in a way that, you know, Facebook business profiles, or, or brand persona as like, you don’t expect it to be the real person. But Twitter gave you access to celebrities, to journalists to, you know, to thought leaders in a way that you couldn’t always get on other platforms. And now that’s taken away.

Alexa Heinrich 17:21
Yeah, and even even the brands themselves are more casual on Twitter, where you feel it’s less robotic, and more personable. When it comes to communicating with your favorite brand. Like, you know, McDonald’s, very, like easygoing kind of tone of voice that they have with their content that they put out right now. It’s being taken over by grimace. And it’s very funny to watch. So, yeah, it’s a, it’s kind of sad to see such a great community tool, become

Meg Casebolt 17:54
less and not have a simple alternative that’s accessible as an easy place to move. Yeah. Yes, yes. So what’s been the response to people when when you tell them about accessible social or when they find it? Is there a lot of that? Like, why would you bother with this? Or are people generally pretty like, Oh, I didn’t know about this, like, how, what’s been the reaction to creating this resource?

Alexa Heinrich 18:20
I get a lot less people who are dismissive now, when did you start a great Accessible Social just turned one happy birthday March? Yeah. So before that, I kind of hosted all this different information, all these resources through my personal website. And I wanted to for a while, kind of disconnect myself from being the face of Accessible Social, I wanted the website to kind of live on its own and be its own entity. So less less about me and my website, and more about the resources and information that you would find. So I finally decided, Okay, I’m gonna build an actual website for Accessible Social, my domain, all that good stuff. Plus, I really wanted to actually make the Accessible Social website I already passable. And the irony, which you probably it wasn’t bad by any means. But it was limited with what I was doing. Because I am not a web developer. I don’t have coding experience. So I was just hosting my website through a GoDaddy template, which is great. I mean, they make it really easy if you don’t want to build a website to make a website for yourself. But there were things that I needed to do that I just couldn’t do through that template. So I actually moved Accessible Social into its own domain and then built a website through Webflow primarily because Webflow really prioritizes accessibility and has accessibility audits built into the web design process. So I really hope This is not an ad, it is now highly recommend. I highly recommend web flow because they make it really easy to not only build a website from scratch, when you don’t know anything about building a website, the building accessible websites. So I get a lot of compliments from people saying like, we really like how not only is accessible socialists great resource, but it’s also really accessible I make good, because I check it frequently. And I panic over it almost every other day. So I’m glad that people find it to be an accessible resource. And on top of

Meg Casebolt 20:32
on top of a good amount of information that’s reasonable to consume and up to date on what’s happening on these different platforms. And let’s talk about let’s talk about that accessibility piece. Because you say like, I go check it and I sort of panic. Are you using the wave audit? Are you like, how are you checking your own accessibility.

Alexa Heinrich 20:54
So I do use the wave audit occasionally. But for the most part, I make sure that none of my audits through Webflow are showing up as like red. There’s like a, you can see it when you’re building in Webflow if something’s wrong, but also just listening to people’s feedback as they visit the website. So I just learned last week that sticky navigation menus, so when you scroll, it’s always at the top or not exactly accessible. And like, I will go fix that. So I removed that from the website. They’re like, Oh, well, you don’t really need one anyway, you have an arrow that’s always at the bottom corner that takes you back to the top of the website. So you’re good. Good to know. So yeah, the website is a living website, which means it gets updated all the time, which also means I break it quite frequently, as I learn different things about website design. So that’s always a fun experiment. But thankfully, the web development community and Webflow are really helpful. And I’ve learned a lot and the year that I’ve been managing the website. But yeah, I’m I’m proud of what it’s become and how accessible it actually is. So I think the only thing that I could do more at this point is do dark mode for it, which I don’t know how to do. So and I refuse to do a web overflow overlay on the site, because that’s not accessible despite what everyone may think. Don’t put web overlays on your website. Those are basically like those little widgets in the corner of websites say, oh, click this for making the website accessible, they don’t actually do that. So you want to say what else? What

Meg Casebolt 22:35
else? What other like best practices or myths? Do you have anything else that you want to dispel as long as we have a sort of captive audience? Skip ahead, it’s

Alexa Heinrich 22:45
fine. So I think one of the things when it comes to creating accessible social media content that I hear a lot of is that it’s hard or time consuming. And it’s really not. Creating Accessible Social media is super easy. Capturing videos is actually pretty easy. There are tools out there that make it easy, you can caption videos through YouTube, and completely, you know, edit them and make your captions perfect, make them ideal and accessible. Writing all text to me is completely second nature, it takes me no time at all, and actually makes me a better marketer because I am more intentional about the images that I choose when I create content, because there have definitely been instances where I’m like, I am not writing alt text for this image, a different one. Plus, I work in higher education. So I love being able to use accessibility as the reason why I’m not going to use your event fire on our social media. Because I’m not going to sit there and write alt text for all this content. So you’re gonna give me a different image or be fine with what I have. I love

Meg Casebolt 23:58
that. And, you know, I think a lot of times people don’t necessarily think like, like, this is not smart, even social media related, but I guess it sort of is my kids school. I have two kids in elementary school. And they regularly put images into the special education Parent Teacher Association will just put an image with no alt text, but just full of text. And I’m like, I I’m on my phone, I can’t read this image that used to be an eight by 10 size that you then put into something that’s you know, three inches tall Max, I can’t read all of that. And then you have to do like the squeeze thing. We’re the special ed PTA club. But the parents that I mean, parents, creators, we’re all just doing our best you know, we’re all trying to create valuable content. But even like, as we start talking about like, even if you’re not specifically talking to people who are disabled or need the accessibility functions, it’s just good marketing.

Alexa Heinrich 24:56
Yes, exactly. is just good marketing. Most people have a very short attention span. And if you’re throwing like three paragraphs, my favorite is when like a brand or a celebrity needs to write an apology and they do the Notes app and they screenshot it and post it as an image. Most people are not going to stop to scroll and read that. Because our attention span is so sure. And I also don’t want to zoom in on all that, and then have to move the image around my screen because it doesn’t reactively resize based on what you’ve zoomed in, maybe I don’t want

Meg Casebolt 25:29
people to really have to be flattering. It’s just that the PR team said they had to put it out, but nobody’s actually expecting you to read it.

Alexa Heinrich 25:37
Yeah, as it’s always interesting to see what people think is going to work on social media plus the algorithms themselves deprioritize wordy graphics like that, because they know that people aren’t logging on to social media looking for something like that your event flyer is not going to do well, unless you’re Taylor Swift releasing your tour dates, but even then you need to make it accessible, you need to write all text for it. So it’s just, it’s really interesting how people think about their content or don’t think about their content.

Meg Casebolt 26:10
Now, I’m curious, are they working for higher ed, you’re doing the social media within the greater marketing team for university? What you can you can totally differ on this question. If you want to cut it out, that’s fine. What’s your personal relationship with social media like and how, how do you set your boundaries so that you can work on social media all day, but then also not feel like you’re attached to it like, nights and weekends.

Alexa Heinrich 26:35
I love social media. I really like attention. I like being this. Social media gives me that outlet. But I also just like the ease with which you can connect with people. I believe it or not, some of my friends would probably laugh at the statement, I am an introvert. So I recharge by being alone. And it’s nice because social media is like being in a big room with all these people. But you’re not really in the room with them. So it doesn’t overwhelm me, it doesn’t drain my energy quite like being in an actual crowded room does. But when it comes to balance, I try really hard to be online less on the weekends when I’m not working, I tried to do things outside of the tiny little screen that’s almost permanently attached to my hand. So but my team at the college that I work for is super supportive of the work that I do when it comes to accessibility and social media. Whenever I’m with our president, and she’s meeting someone new, and I’m tailing her for social media coverage, she really likes to introduce me to people and like, well, she’s an award winning international speaker, and I’m just like this event,

I’m just here to take a picture. Williams, I’m an all black so that I’m invisible at this

time. But they’re really supportive, which I really like because it helps when I do need to push back against someone sending me content that’s not accessible to have that backup from my manager, my associate vice presidents great, my vice president, they’re all super supportive of that they love just, I know, I truly am living a utopian dream in terms of support, because I know that a lot of my peers within higher education and other industries that have social media don’t get the same support. So I feel very lucky and very blessed to have the team that I do, and work where I work to have that support. So because we’ve had to push back against the governor’s office, when they send like a press release, that’s a JPEG. Like, I cannot post this, it’s not accessible. And my AVP was like, Yeah, you’re totally right, I’m gonna respond, let them know, like, we can’t post this. It’s it’s not accessible for our students. But yeah, that and thankfully, there are brands and organizations outside of higher education that have really embraced accessibility, and championed it. A really great example is NASA. So NASA has actually become really well known for their beautiful images, the space that they share from the Webb telescope, but also the extraordinarily detailed alt text they write for those images. So there I’ve described their alt texts, further Deep Space images as a love letter to space exploration, because that’s, that’s really what it feels like. And I’ve said as like, I would totally buy a book of just like, here’s an image from the telescope. Here’s the old textbook wrote for it. Like give me that as a coffee table book because it’s beautiful. So it’s really nice to See them embrace accessibility, and really lean into it. So that, you know, spaces for everyone, which is their little tagline on Twitter spaces for everyone. And they really want to make sure that they’re fully embracing that message.

Meg Casebolt 30:16
Because I think of all timelessly and I guess we never fully defined all text, even though that was the beginning of this alt text is what shows up on screen readers. So that if you cannot view the image, you see that text instead, or at least that’s how it started. Now, often people are putting alt texts, in addition to their captions or into their captions. So that way, if you can’t see the image, or just want to read, instead of looking at it, you can,

Alexa Heinrich 30:39
when should we want to get really technical alt text is usually a really brief description that’s on the back end. image descriptions are visible descriptions. And this is where people get confused. I’m like, I just interchangeably use the expressions because otherwise they confuse people. The image descriptions are when you can, like visibly see it in the body of a caption, or the body of a post. So but all texts, you know, what it was really just for the internet is slow, this image did not load, here’s what it was supposed to be red and that easy, like gray. Yep, and then have the text next to it, which a lot of times if someone doesn’t write proper alt text is just the file name for the image. So that’s what it really started as. And then it’s evolved to be for accessibility, which is how people should primarily think about it, it’s an accessibility feature that you need to use to make your content accessible. So, you know, it used to be a couple words like stack of pancakes. And that was it. And now it’s, you know, it’s more illustrative than that, because you really want to describe not only the key details of an image to someone, but you’re giving them a little bit of context of like, basically, why have you used this image for your content. So it’s, it’s become more descriptive, which I really like. So there’s some people that go way too overboard, and then I’m like, Okay, you’re veering off from the actual purpose of all, but I appreciate.

Meg Casebolt 32:13
So, you know, my background is for search engine optimization. And so alt text can be really helpful for having your images show up in Google image search, alt text is the default text if people are going to pin directly from your website, and Pinterest. So I’m, I have always taught people, you know, use alt text, you can put a keyword into your alt text, but don’t make that the primary intention of the alt text, because it really shouldn’t be there for accessibility. And what I’ve always taught has been like, keep it as simple as possible, because if people are listening to a screen reader, they don’t want to have to read this long list of keywords or like, whatever. But now that you’re talking about NASA, and how it’s like a love letter to the image, and to the audience who’s reading it, I’m, I’m thinking like, how descriptive? Should we allow these? You know, kind of supplemental explanations to be? And should your alt text be the same as your caption?

Alexa Heinrich 33:04
It really depends on the image and how complex they are. So the NASA images are clearly very complex. And not only is the image itself, but the subject matter of space, deep space, how do you describe that to someone who can’t see it? So the default really, for me, and a lot of my peers within accessibility is how would you describe this image to someone over the phone if they can’t see it? Like, what details are important, and I get a lot of people who are stressed about the idea of writing alt text, which is good, because that didn’t even hear. And maybe it just doesn’t, yeah, cognizant, we want you to be thoughtful about it. But at the end of the day, you are the content author. So you have the power to decide what details in image are important to the end user. So you get to decide what visual details are important to describe. Which you know, if you read your full post, and then you read your alt text, is there any information missing that someone should know about from that content? If there is information missing? Does it belong in the body of your posts? Or does it belong in the old text? So I try to, you know, make it less stressful for people. It’s helped a lot since I’ve started telling people you’re the content author, you have the power.

Meg Casebolt 34:31
And let’s talk about like the formatting of your text to I know we’ve talked a lot about images and making sure that those are accessible. We talked about video, captions, audio transcripts. When you’re thinking about what to actually write and how to format it. Here’s something that I have always done and just discovered that you should instead of using bullet points, I would use emojis because I was like, Oh, this one is it’s about this topic. And that makes it more interesting, but you’re not supposed to do that. So what are what are some of those things that either you are always teaching people or You’re seeing maybe done in a way that is just people who don’t know any better. And so we can kind of re educate a little bit here

Alexa Heinrich 35:08
is a fun fact about emoji icons, they all have unique descriptors added to them in their metadata. So it’s basically so that a device can tell the difference between a smiley face and a smiley face laughing with tears. They just need to be coated uniquely. So they have Unicode descriptors added to them. And when an assistive device like a screen reader comes across emoji and content, it uses that description to describe it to the user. Most devices that I’ve used, don’t actually announce that it’s an emoji, you just hear the descriptor, read aloud. So if you’re using emoji as bullet points or breaking up written copy with a emoji icon, it can

Meg Casebolt 35:57
create more like I’m gonna tell a joke laughing face blah, blah, blah, you know, like, it doesn’t necessarily have the you. If you’re having it read out loud to you, you don’t necessarily know what is happening there. Yeah, that would be kind of a cognitive dissonance.

Alexa Heinrich 36:11
Yeah, it interrupts the flow of your copy, essentially. So usually, what I suggest for people is if you’re going to use emoji, because I love emoji, some people think I hate emoji. I teach about accessibility. Messages. I always gather their emoji centric. So but I always suggest that people use emojis in moderation. And for sure, you should double check the descriptions that are assigned to them, which you can do using the site emoji Love that website. But put them at the end of your posts and tweets so that the important written content gets read first. And then the last important aesthetic information, which are your emoji icons, gets read last. So that’s all I suggest. And I usually stick to like two to three emoji at most, I don’t really want to go overboard with my emoji. But yeah, emojis bullet points. It’s

Meg Casebolt 37:03
very common. And I understand after like description, like why it would be difficult to listen to an emoji?

Alexa Heinrich 37:11
Yeah, yeah. And I people don’t seem to realize that depending on the device, or the platform of the browser that you’re viewing and emoji on, it could have a different description assigned to it, or it looks different. Like we know that Android emoji icons look different from what you know, I would see on my iPhone, just because that’s how those interfaces work. Which is again, why I really like emoji pedia that word because it gives you every known description and appearance for every possible emoji across different platforms, devices and browsers. So it’s a great website. Yeah, it lists websites on there that I’ve never even heard of. It’s a truly impressive resource. And I’m like,

Meg Casebolt 37:51
checking it out right now. Like, I just looked at the two hearts emoji meaning and sometimes it’s like Apple, here’s what it looks like on Apple or Samsung or Microsoft or WhatsApp or Twitter and you can Oh, one of our beads. Oh, that’s cute on Microsoft.

Alexa Heinrich 38:08
Like, interesting to just to see how like, sometimes the descriptions evolve based on cultural use of them. So like, go look at the icon for eggplant.

Meg Casebolt 38:21
Oh, yeah, I’m sure eggplant has a very

Alexa Heinrich 38:26
it’s always interesting to see how other platforms describe it due to its phallic

Meg Casebolt 38:31
use the hashtag eggplant was once banned and Instagram search function.

Alexa Heinrich 38:38
I’m sure it’s still blacklisted. If I had a guess it’s probably like shadowbanned.

Meg Casebolt 38:44
The Oh, probably. And it might be in specific countries. It might have your post. Sure it

Alexa Heinrich 38:49
is. Yeah, that’s always one but I have a an example that I give in my presentations I use it’s like the old house. But it’s like old house, haunted house, or derelict house and like derelict who got fancy one day and decided this is a derelict house. So yeah, it’s really interesting to see like the different descriptions. But that’s something really important to think about with your content, because you could use something, thinking it means one thing visually, but when someone hears it through a screen reader or text to speech program, Yeah,

Meg Casebolt 39:22
no kidding. They’re getting, like 20 different uses of emojis. Oh, I’m gonna go down this route. Oh, it’s from Google Trends. It shows the Google trends of the different emojis. That’s why

Alexa Heinrich 39:36
I will fight until the very end when people tell me that the laughing face with tears is outdated. I’m like, but it’s still like one of the most popular emojis to use I’m pretty sure

Meg Casebolt 39:48
okay, I’m gonna definitely be going down this rabbit hole. Like just surprise you and it will tell you like this is the emoji of a deer. This is the pea pods. Okay. Describe it Describe it not like you were on the phone, but describe it like you’re explaining it on a podcast for no good reason at all, except that you’re entertained. There’s my new people ready for any final thoughts, ideas, things you want people to know about this? Oh, and I shouldn’t say this too. If y’all are like, I wish there was a checklist, there is one accessible dash, you can go get the free checklist, the free guide like all of this is free, accessible information. So any final thoughts, comments, concerns about this topic that you want to share?

Alexa Heinrich 40:36
I think the biggest thing that I always want to encourage people when it comes to creating inclusive content of any kind, whether you’re talking about accessibility, or race, ethnicity, sexuality, is that as digital marketers, you need to remember to step outside of your own lived experience. When creating content, your target audience is still incredibly diverse. They don’t necessarily look like you or act like you or experience the world the way that you do. And that’s how you need to create content. So I, when I create content, I think about how someone with hearing loss or vision loss is going to experience my content. How would someone with a cognitive disability experience my content? You have to think like that. And I know it feels like extra but it’s really not because if you’re not creating accessible content, that’s a missing piece of your content creation process, not an Adobe put

Meg Casebolt 41:37
a bomb dropping emoji and then explosion emoji. Alex, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Alexa Heinrich 41:45
Thank you again for having me. It was great talking to you.

Meg Casebolt 41:49
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media Talk to you then

Please forgive any typos or errors, as this transcript was automatically generated by

accessible social media with alexa heinrich