Twitter tests alt text changes to make platform more accessible

10 Mar 2022

Image: © bloomicon/Stock.adobe.com

Two new image accessibility features are being tested ahead of a global launch next month.

Twitter is trialling new features to make image descriptions easier to access for people who are blind or have low vision.

One of the features is a public Alt badge that users can click on to reveal an image description on the platform. Alt is a reference to alternative or alt text, which is useful for users who are blind, have low vision, those who use assistive technologies or have cognitive disabilities.

Future Human

The other feature will expose some of the image description below the image, indicating to users that an image description is available. Twitter said it is also working on a feature that will remind users uploading images to add image descriptions.

Announced yesterday (9 March), the features will initially be available to around 3pc of Twitter users on Android, iOS and the web. After a month of gathering feedback and working on bug fixes, Twitter expects to launch the features for all users in April.

“We will continue to monitor for a few weeks to maintain quality, then starting in April we will quickly ramp up to 100pc of all users for all platforms,” Twitter Accessibility said in a tweet.

Twitter also shared an instructional article on how to add image descriptions, in which it shared how the new features will look to users who have access to them.

“If you’re part of the 3pc of people who have access to the features, the Alt badge will appear on other users’ images that have a description added. Select the Alt badge and the image description will open,” Twitter Accessibility wrote in another tweet.

Minimum system requirements to access the new features are Android 9.3 and iOS 9.

‘Long time coming’

Twitter said that these features are being introduced after it received a lot of feedback from users on how to improve image descriptions on the platform to make it more accessible and user-friendly for people with disabilities.

“We know these features have been a long time coming, and we’re grateful for your patience,” the company tweeted, asking users to send feedback on the Alt badge and exposed image descriptions.

“Adding image descriptions allows people who are blind, have low vision, use assistive tech, live in low-bandwidth areas, or have a cognitive disability, to fully contribute on Twitter,” it went on.

Twitter has introduced a host of new features and changes on its platform this year, including some in response to the conflict in Ukraine. Last month, it began flagging all content linking to Russian state media and it shared tips for users in conflict zones.

Twitter also recently expanded the trial of its new Safety Mode feature to Ireland, days after it started testing another fast DM feature that some called out for potential harassment implications.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com