At SoMAA, we strive to create more accessible digital communities so we can build a more inclusive world. The SoMAA Lab is a multi-faceted project that prioritizes the voices of diverse disabled individuals to inform research and action.
The research portion of this project aims to explore the following research questions:
- What is the user experience like for disabled young adults ages 18-26 in Los Angeles County who use various social media platforms?
- How likely are Instagram users, who are undergraduate students attending college in Los Angeles County, to create accessible social media content by using captions, alt text, camel case, and other accessibility features? Which factors predict the likelihood that individuals use certain accessibility features on Instagram (e.g., captions, alternative text, camel case, color contrast)?
Findings from the study as well as input from community consultants will inform the creation of toolkits and explainer videos that teach about the importance of creating accessible social media content and how content creators can implement these practices on various social media platforms. These resources will live on our website and will be available open source for organizations and individuals who wish to use them. Our SoMAA team will present trainings in our local community to raise awareness and teach others how to create more inclusive social media content.
“The first step to solving a problem is identifying that the problem exists.”
-Dr. Caitlin Solone
The SoMAA lab is led by UCLA’s Dr. Caitlin Solone and co-facilitated by graduate students, Lauren Chiang and Emily Frake.
The Lab continues its commitment to support disability justice efforts by advocating for the raising of awareness and actionable change to make digital communities more accessible to a wide range of individuals with varied access needs.
Students who opt to participate in the SoMAA Lab are Disability Studies Minors passionate about learning research skills and making actionable change.
Quarter one (Spring 2022) was devoted to learning about the research process and understanding existing literature and policy related to social media and web accessibility. Students engaged in the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process, developed research questions, designed study protocols and instruments, created a recruitment plan, and began reaching out to community partners.
The second quarter (Fall 2022), which is currently in progress, allows students to engage in the research process where they are actively recruiting study participants, processing feedback from community consultants, engaging in focus groups, coding and analyzing data, and using the data to inform the creation of social media accessibility toolkits and videos.
Once the study is complete, the SoMAA Lab will release research-informed Social Media Accessibility Toolkits with accompanying explainer videos. In addition, the Lab plans to publish the findings in a peer-reviewed journal, filling a clear gap in the literature, while also giving undergraduates publication opportunities.
Seeking to align our research and action with disability justice principles, the Lab is committed to the project of providing an anti-ableist, anti-racist, non-binary, anti-ageist, environment for all by prioritizing and compensating a diverse group of community consultants, utilizing vendors with shared values, ascribing value to many different forms of knowledge sharing (not solely focusing on formal academic contributions), creating accessible and inclusive classroom and community spaces, creating accessible open-source resources available for use by anyone with interest, and by using strategic planning to disseminate our resources to all corners of our community.