As you can see in this alert, Twitter’s looking to get more users to consider adding alt-text, by providing an explainer on why text descriptions of images are important, and how they can help more people engage with their content.
Text descriptions are a key tool for visually impaired users, with screen readers able to communicate these descriptions to add relevant context. Twitter users are able to add text descriptions to any uploaded image or GIF, but it requires manual effort – hence these new prompts.
Twitter’s been working to improve its alternative text descriptions for some time, as part of its broader efforts to improve accessibility in the app.
Twitter added a dedicated ‘+ALT’ button, displayed on the image itself, back in 2020, in order to encourage more awareness of the option. It updated the feature in March this year, with a new ‘ALT’ badge now automatically added to images where alternative text descriptions are available.
Twitter’s also expanded its text description window to make them more accessible.
In combination, these have put significantly more focus on alt text for tweeted images, though Twitter could go further, by adding auto-generated text descriptions where alt text content is not available for an image.
That’s what Facebook now uses, with its Automated Alt Text (AAT) processfacilitating the identification of objects within posted images via machine learning process.
It’s not perfect, but it helps to provide a better experience – and rather than hoping that users will add their own info when prompted, it ensures that there will be text descriptions available for all content.
Twitter’s prompts may help to provide more accurate descriptions (maybe), but they won’t be available at scale, as users can easily ignore the prompts and move on.
Maybe, the next stage then is to move into line with Meta’s approach, in utilizing automated object identification, which can also have expanded benefits in a range of additional applications and processes.
Whether that’s a focus for Twitter or not is hard to say, as no one really knows what the key developmental strategy for the app will be moving forward, given the current ownership confusion.
But if Twitter wants to take its accessibility tools to the next level, this seems like the obvious step.
Twitter’s new alt text prompts are being rolled out to a small group of users on iOS, Android, and web from today. Twitter will expand the prompts to more users over the coming weeks.