Making social media more accessible to people with disabilities is vital in order to produce a more inclusive society.
Apple and Android products have a range of accessibility features — the most prominent is namely ‘screen reading’, where the phone will read the text on screen aloud in the case where the user cannot physically see the screen. But what about images?
In 2017, Twitter upgraded its services so that users could add a description to images so that the screen reading feature could be used on images posted on Twitter. Unlike Facebook, this feature is not automated, so users have to add the image description themselves. Without alt text, the device would not know what the image contained, and would read out a long file name instead, such as “IMG_1234.PNG”.
This description, or alt text, is not only for accessibility reasons — if an image fails to load, the text will appear instead. Search engines also use alt text information and consider it a factor in SEO and website rankings.
Google uses alt text to determine what an image contains and, if you use an image as a link, to understand more about the page that you’re linking to. This is why alt text can ultimately improve your ranking in Google Images and other search engines!
WritING Alt Text and Descriptions
It is helpful to include a succinct description of what is in the image — people, colours and names. Only include the important details though and avoid using fanfare language and unhelpful details. Only include the details that help to build the overall idea of what the picture is. If you were to describe it to someone who couldn’t see, what would you say?
What to Include:
– Styles of image (photo, painting, graph etc.)
– Important details (EG: clothes may be an important detail)
What to Avoid:
– Obvious details (EG: 2 eyes, 1 nose…)
– Details that are not the focus of the picture
– Complicated descriptions and language
How To Include Alt Text
Alt text is created through the code on your website. If you wanted to include this image of some pancakes, the code would read:
<img src=”pancakes.png” alt=”Stack of blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar”>
Here, the alt text would appear as “stack of blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar”.
On social media, you can include your own alt text through the advanced settings on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Instagram and Facebook have automatic alt text that is created through artificial intelligence; however, this is not always the most reliable or accurate description of your picture. You can always customise the alt text yourself!
Image Descriptions on Instagram
On Instagram, it is common to include a description of the image in the caption, for accessibility reasons. Influencer, Carly Findlay, is one example of someone who uses this in practice.
Carly aims to include all people in her posts, which is why she includes the image description in all her posts. Disability awareness and starting a conversation about ableism is a large aspect of her content.
On Instagram, a screen reader can read captions, hashtags and likes. Technology has recently improved to include Artificial Intelligence which can provide an automated description of what is in the image (similar to Facebook).
However, AI technology is not always the most reliable or accurate. This is why influencers like Carly include their own image description in post captions. Instagram does now allow users to include alt text in their images. However, this only allows 100 characters. In order to make a more engaging description, Carly utilises the caption!
Ultimately, including an image description or alt text can not only help your page be more accessible but can boost your SEO! It is important to think about your social media and web presence from all angles of life and alt text may be the small change to give your business the boost it needs!
We have completed a lot of work in the Not For Profit sector, including assisting many organisations that support people with disabilities. To learn more about our past work with the Not For Profit sector, visit our Not For Profit page.
To learn more about other updates on Instagram, visit our recent blog post.