Last week Instagram changed to an algorithm-based feed and Snapchat 2.0 completely changed its chat format (link to article), but the social update that flew under the radar was an update Twitter made to the way they are going to handle images.
With Tuesday’s update users can now add descriptions — also called alternative text (alt text) up to 420 characters to their images. This won’t impact the majority of Twitter users, but it does widen the audience in a significant way.
Blind and visually impaired Twitter users utilize screen readers like Chicken Nugget or Easy Chirp for converting text tweets to audio, but images are outside of their capabilities, so images were never read to users. With alt text descriptions, these screen reading resources an now describe the accompanying image, helping visually impaired users now understand the dog joke in your image description.
My main concern with the update is the amount of users that will take advantage of this option. Currently it is the tweeter’s decision to add the alt text to the image they are posting. It is still too early to tell if users will take the time to add this information. It’s also too early to tell how many users are aware of this update, meaning it will take some time for users to begin making it part of their Twitter posting process.
While this update might not move the needle to stop the run of negative Twitter press, it does mean that Twitter is actively striving to be a more inclusive platform. More people can participate than ever before. This mentality is important for brands to take into consideration to showcase that they are thinking about all of their customers, taking every aspect of their lifestyle into consideration. Brands that go the extra step to add alt descriptions to images will separate themselves from those that don’t to the visually impaired community.