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Equity & Accessibility

Further Than Inclusion

Creating a Sense of Belonging

You’ve crafted and learned how to share your story, tracked your keywords, and begun to engage effectively online. What’s next? Ensuring your content is both equitable and accessible.

In recent years, the word “inclusion”–that is, the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized–has been swapped out for “belonging.” Beyond simply being included, belonging connotes a sense of feeling as if you are an important and equal member of a group; you fit in, and are seen, respected, and heard for who you are.

Why is it important to create a sense of belonging on your social media pages? Think back to the idea of building a community over building a following. To build an engaged community–one that keeps coming back for more, so to speak–you want your pages to feel welcoming and open to all people, inclusive of their identities.

This is an integral part of equitable social media. Equitable social media means approaching your content with an understanding of your identity markers (race, sex, gender identity, age, etc.) and how they might differ from your audience. It is an acknowledgement that inequity–a lack of justice or fairness–exists both online and offline. It is also posting content with a mindset of “sharing” rather than “selling” and creating a sense of value and worth within your community.

Social Location

One of the first steps to equitable social media is identifying your social location. Our social location determines our access to power, privilege, or our lack of power and privilege; it is the expression of a person’s existence in society and culture. Social location can allow us access to certain status or block us from having certain status.

Social location is important because it acknowledges that all people in society don’t think alike or experience reality in the same way. Online and off, social location places us in certain relationships to the world and the people around us. Check out the related activity to see the social location graph.

Sharing your identity markers in your social media posts can help others feel more welcomed and connected. For instance, in a story of origin post, the founder of The Community Garden could share online that she is a Black Disabled woman, uses the pronouns she/her, and was born in the community where the garden is located. This could help build relationships with others in the community who could be potential customers of the garden’s produce stand. This could also encourage others to share their gender identities and disability status, particularly if their identities have been historically excluded or marginalized.

Dos and Don’ts

In addition to being mindful of our own identities and those of others, we want to ensure our language and approach to posting on social media is also equitable. Here are a few reminders:

Do use friendly language that doesn’t exclude others (e.g. avoiding gendered language such as ladies and gentlemen). Don’t include biases or stereotypes in your writing or content.

Do share content that is representative of all people year-round Don’t only post about particular people during a specific observance or month (e.g. Pride Month, Black History Month)

Do use softer, more encouraging language (e.g. Try our new varietal of zucchini) Don’t use pushy or forceful language (e.g. Buy our produce, not the competitor’s!)

Check out this article about how to make your language more inclusive.

Let’s review! An equitable social media post includes:

  • Consideration of your social location and that of others
  • Sharing your identity markers as relevant and appropriate
  • Using friendly, inclusive language
  • Content that is representative of people of varying identities year-round
  • Less pushy or forceful language

Test your knowledge

What is one way to create a sense of belonging on social media?

Exercise: Social Location

Making Content Accessible for All

The last big step to creating the most effective content possible is to make sure it is accessible. Accessibility ensures that all people—regardless of ability—can interact with the information or services you provide. Accessible means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. Plus, when you make your content accessible, it reaches more people.

Here are some strategies to consider to make your content more accessible:

  • Consider your text, font, and colors:
    • Use high contrast colors, such as black and yellow or black and white
    • Use clear, large, simple fonts with ample spacing. Avoid script fonts; they’re harder to read!
    • Left align larger blocks of text. Studies show left aligned text is easier and faster to read.
  • “PascalCase” your hashtags:
    • This means capitalizing the first letter of each word such as #TheCommunityGarden instead of #thecommunitygarden
  • Use emoji sparingly:
    • Screen readers read emojis using their text code. For example, ’🙂😎😻’ would be read as “slightly smiling face smiling face with sunglasses smiling cat with heart eyes”. Avoid using them between words or before your call to action.
  • Add captions to videos:
    • There are options on most social media platforms to add captions to your videos. You can also add them manually by adding text on the screen of the video.
  • Include alt text/image descriptions:
    • Alt text is a description that allows screen readers to describe your digital media to blind or visually impaired users. On multiple platforms, including Instagram, there are options for how to add alt text to each piece of content you post.
    • This also makes your images more searchable, as the alt text can be included in text-based search results.
    • Similar to alt text, image descriptions are typically used on social media to describe graphics, photos, and videos in more detail. Add image descriptions manually in the caption or a comment.
    • Keep image descriptions concise by describing the object of the photo first, the action, and then the context. For example, consider a photo of cabbage at The Community Garden stand on a warm day. Your description could read: green cabbage sitting on a wooden farm stand with sun shining behind it at The Community Garden market
    • Bonus: Image descriptions and alt text can reach more people than posts without them as, in essence, you’re adding more keywords to your content.
    • Learn more about image descriptions here.

Let’s review! An accessible social media post includes:

  • Alt text
  • Image descriptions
  • Camel-cased hashtags
  • Limited use of emojis
  • Large & contrasted text
  • Captions added to videos

Test your knowledge

What are two ways to make your content more accessible?

Exercise: Image Descriptions