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Social Media Matters

Today's businesses know that social media is no longer a strictly "social" phenomenon. It's a digital platform with significant value both inside and outside the workplace. From Facebook to Twitter and beyond, social media is increasingly used to conduct outreach, recruit job candidates and enhance productivity. And it's transforming how we engage with customers, employees, job seekers and other stakeholders.

But as social media becomes more diverse, we all have a responsibility to ensure these digital services are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. One of the simplest ways to do so is to craft posts that can be more easily read by users with certain disabilities. Fortunately, there's a free resource that can help — Improving the Accessibility of Social Media in Government. Developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) as part of the Social Media Accessibility Working Group, this toolkit was developed for federal employees; however, its content applies to anyone looking to increase the accessibility of their social media content.

Advice includes avoiding acronyms and placing hashtags and @ mentions at the end of tweets, which allows screen readers to speak the main content more clearly in the beginning. Another helpful tip is to use the audio feature on your smart phone to listen to posts prior to distribution, which demonstrates exactly how clear or confusing content sounds to users who are visually impaired.

Because there are still miles to go in fully understanding how people with disabilities use and experience social media, ODEP and the National Council on Disability (NCD) are hosting an online dialogue to examine the accessibility barriers of these tools. From March 17 to April 4, 2014, everyone, including small businesses, can access this virtual event to submit ideas, comments and votes on creative approaches to improving social media's usability. By joining the conversation and learning more about ways to increase the accessibility of social media and other workplace tools, businesses of all sizes can optimize technology's potential to serve as a powerful tool of inclusion.

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