It’s Deaf Awareness Week, and with more than 11 million people in the UK living with some form of hearing impairment, it’s the perfect time to reassess the accessibility of your social media content.

The social media backlash to the inaccessibility of the British Government’s COVID-19 press briefings, or National Rail’s recent faux pas where they turned their website grayscale to honour Prince Philip but made it harder to read, has demonstrated the need for brands to take accessibility even more seriously. But, creating accessible content goes far beyond brand reputation; it’s also vital from a functional and ethical perspective.

The importance of creating content for those who are hard of hearing
Failure to create content that speaks to people with a hearing impairment isn’t just unfair, it also means you’re missing out on a huge audience – and not just those who are hard of hearing. 

Research has shown that 85% of people watch Facebook videos with sound off, and that 80% of those who use captions aren’t hard of hearing, and the same percentage are more likely to watch to the end if it has caption, which highlights just how impactful accessible content can be. 

There are some key considerations that you can take when planning social media content, from using platform functionality to campaign and content planning.

Subtitle your videos
Platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have auto-captioning features for content creators. However, these auto-generated captions should ideally always be checked by a human. While in-built functionality can save time, these tools often have trouble understanding accents, dialect and faster speakers, resulting in mistakes that render the captions nonsensical – such as this awkward occasion on the BBC back in 2020.

Consider your social media platform
Tapping into the latest platform trends can drive social fame for brands, but it’s not always the most accessible move. For example, while making an exclusive brand announcement on Clubhouse may be exciting, it excludes anyone who is hard of hearing.

It’s valuable to think about how to offer a similar level of inclusivity to those who are hard of hearing – perhaps through a signed announcement on Instagram or TikTok launched simultaneously with the audio-only version. Or perhaps it means considering a Clubhouse alternative, such as Twitter Spaces, where users can benefit from captions.

While some platforms are making moves to improve accessibility of content, there is still a long way to go. For now, it’s up to brands to make considered choices and use social platforms in innovative ways to make content accessible.

Create exclusive content for those with hearing loss
Brands could even go one step further to create content that specifically speaks to those who are hard of hearing – whether that’s actively selecting deaf influencers for campaigns, or using sign language to convey the key message in an ad. 

Maltesers’ braille bus poster, Burger King’s #WhopperSign Campaign and Sainsbury’s Signsbury’s store are all great examples of inclusive brand activations that appeal specifically to those who are hearing impaired.

Maltesers unveils Braille billboard in next phase of disability campaign

Incorporate accessibility into brand strategy
Every step towards creating a more inclusive brand is a step in the right direction. Businesses who are developing diversity and inclusion strategies must consider accessibility in digital communications as part of that vision to be truly inclusive.

Creating accessible content doesn’t have to mean compromising on aesthetic or innovation. Instead, it offers the challenge of how to be creative and extend the impact of your content to a much wider audience – a win for creators, brands and, most importantly, those with disabilities. 

Deaf Awareness Week may be the catalyst to spark this change, but accessible content for those who are hard of hearing should be considered every day of the year. By creating a space that speaks specifically to those who are hard of hearing, brands can help to make them feel more connected, not just with their marketing, but as part of a wider community.

For more about accessibility in social media, check out this blog post from our team at We Are Social in Sydney.