Twitter Makes Platform More Accessible for Visually Impaired
While most don’t think twice before snapping a pic and posting it to social media, for those who are visually impaired, using something like Twitter is an entirely different experience.
Starting today, people using iOS and Android apps can add descriptions — otherwise known as alternative text (alt text) — to the images they post to Twitter. Essentially, by enabling the feature and composing image descriptions, users can add up to 420 characters via a thumbnail on their Tweet images. Then, people who are visually impaired are be able to “read” the description using assistive technology, such as screen readers and braille displays, according to Twitter’s blog.
To turn on the feature, you just have to follow a few steps:
Twitter for iOS
To turn on the feature:
1.) Go to your Settings by tapping the Me tab and then the gear icon
2.) Tap Accessibility
3.) Next to Compose image descriptions, drag the slider to turn the setting on or off
To add image descriptions in Tweets for iOS:
- Start by tapping the Tweet icon and attach your photo(s)
- On the image, tap Add description to insert descriptive text
- Type your description of the image and tap Apply. Tap the description again to edit it prior to posting the Tweet
- You can add a description to each image in a Tweet.
(Note: Image descriptions cannot be added to GIFs or videos.)
For Android instructions, go here.
However, these changes will only really make an impact if everyone starts using them. As Michelle Hackman, who is blind, writes for Vox, “My guess is most people aren’t even aware this is a problem.”
Michelle wants to enjoy images from every user on Twitter and social media, not just large organizations who are sure to adopt this feature in order to be more inclusive and boost their search results. “I’m equally concerned with being able to enjoy the boatloads of photos my friends tweet, post, and otherwise disseminate each day — and I doubt they’ll bother to adopt image captioning as a normal habit,” Michelle says. That’s why, if you’re reading this, you should honestly consider taking the extra minute or two to turn on the image descriptors and actually write them when using Twitter — there are 285 million people who are visually impaired worldwide. `
As of right now, Twitter is the first to roll out such massive changes, but Facebook is reportedly also developing a tool that would automatically analyze an image and generate a description. That would be awesome, but until then, you can do your part to make the big social media sites more inclusive.