As a blind Twitter user, I can say without a moment’s hesitation that there aren’t many things more off pissing about the experience than tweets full of pictures I can’t possibly understand. At the best of times its annoying because I’d like to be in on the joke too, but it’s especially irritating when those pictures contain information I might actually need, like the coupon code required to take advantage of the great deal you’re promoting or the photo you took of the sign on your door with your business hours on it, for example. So Twitter’s announcement today that it’s now possible for folks to add a 420 character image description to those photos for our benefit is certainly welcomed news, at least in theory. I mean allowing for alt text is great and all, but it’s been available on the rest of the internet since the beginning of time and most people don’t use it there, so I’m not sure how much of anything this is really going to change. But hey, if this changes even a few people’s posting habits, I guess that’s something. Baby steps and whatnot, as usual.
None of that is me saying I don’t appreciate the attempt. I do. I’m just being realistic about it.
Photos have been at the center of some of the biggest moments on Twitter. As a core part of the Twitter experience, it’s important that images shared on our platform are accessible to everyone, including those who are visually impaired.
Starting today, people using our iOS and Android apps can add descriptions — also known as alternative text (alt text) — to images in Tweets. With this update, we’re empowering everyone to ensure content shared on Twitter is accessible to the widest possible audience.
Enable this feature by using the compose image descriptions option in the Twitter app’s accessibility settings. The next time you add an image to a Tweet, each thumbnail in the composer will have an add description button. Tap it to add a description to the image. People who are visually impaired will have access to the description via their assistive technology (e.g., screen readers and braille displays). Descriptions can be up to 420 characters.
To ensure publishers and third-party clients also have the capability to add alt text to images, we’ve extended our platform products to both the REST API and Twitter Cards. We know this is especially important for specialized Twitter clients for the visually impaired such as EasyChirp, Chicken Nugget, and The Qube.
We’re excited to empower our customers and publishers to make images on Twitter accessible to the widest possible audience, so everyone can be included in the conversation and experience the biggest moments together.