Federal social media gets accessibility toolkit


A new initiative is trying to improve the accessibility of social media content from the government for people with disabilities, starting with guidelines and training resources.

The Federal Social Media Accessibility Working Group, led by the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy, has started work on making social media services more accessible with the Feb. 28 launch of a new, evolving toolkit and set of suggestions for agency use of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The Office of Management and Budget recently noted that implementation of accessibility measures--known as Section 508 compliance--varies widely across agencies.

The group's toolkit outlines common accessibility concerns and gives usability tips including:

  • Enable closed captioning and provide links to captioned media or transcripts;
  • provide phone numbers and contact information in multiple places and in account profiles;
  • spell out acronyms;
  • if possible, use APIs and embedded timelines that already have accessibility built-in; and
  • monitor Digital Government University for new training resources

The work comes out of the government recognizing that agencies and employers are using social media to interact with communities for more purposes, job seekers are using social media to look for work and there is an increased use of images and videos to promote jobs.

Without accessibility considerations, these trends "make participation in services difficult for persons with disabilities," says Mario Damiani, a policy advisor at ODEP. He said "it is essential that social media be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities" to encourage their participation in government and their use of available services.

Damiani said the toolkit and other deliverables from the working group will be made available to citizens and the private sector to aid the accessibility of their social media.

The toolkit and other future deliverables will continually evolve and adapt to changes and suggestions, says Damiani, and its page has options for agency and public feedback.

For more:
- see the toolkit's suggestions
- read the announcement by Damiani

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