Twitter Gives The Visually Impaired The Ability To Understand Images

Twitter wants its users who have visual impairments to become more involved with user images, which have become very common with tweets, in a way like they never could before.

People who use screen readers or assistive technology to read Twitter will be able to read images to "see" what the image is. According to Tech News Today, users who upload photos to Twitter along with their tweets will have the option of adding descriptive information about those images using alternative text, or "alt text."

taking a picture with Twitter
Twitter users can add alternative text to add descriptions to their photos for the advantage of the visually impaired and other Twitter users. [Photo by Charles Pertwee/Getty Images for Barclays Asia Trophy]

In a blog post, Twitter described how the function can be turned on in the app, and the feature should be able to be used on March 30, 2016.

"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."

Twitter extends the alternative text feature to the REST API and Twitter Cards so for third-party apps can use alt text in images. It is very important for apps like EasyChirp, The Qube, and Chicken Nugget to have access to the feature, because these are popular clients typically used by the visually impaired.

Using this extra feature and descriptive text may help Twitter users to be found in Twitter's search field or through other search engines more easily if the right keywords are used to describe the photo.

According to ValueWalk, Twitter posts with pictures get up to 313 percent higher engagement than tweets without a picture. Twitter users with visual impairments had to use other apps or programs to get alternative text descriptions for photos, but Twitter aims to incorporate this feature right into Twitter.

This alternative text feature isn't really complicated; the feature is a chance to add a short caption to photos. The text box for the photos is limited to 420 characters on Twitter, so the description of the photo can be long enough for users to understand what is going on in the photo.

People who aren't visually impaired will likely take advantage of the 420 character limit, because it's 420 more characters to add on to the Twitter mandated 140 characters in a normal tweet. Twitter users may begin to the extra characters to add on to their short tweets when they attach a photo to their tweet. As many Twitter users already use photos to express themselves, it will be interesting to see how Twitter users take advantage of the extra characters in the alternative text box.

Twitter app and on the computer
The Twitter Alternative Text function is only available on iOS and Android systems so far. [Photo illustration by Mary Turner/Getty Images]

Brands which advertise on Twitter will likely take advantage of the description box as well, as they will have the extra characters to really push products and services like never before. These advertisements will be in the face of all Twitter users and will be hard to ignore.

It is important to note that the new feature will not work if a similar image is shared which is not from the source that originally placed the alternative text with the photo. The alternative text will work if the original photo is shared from the source that originally placed the text.

It is likely that the visually impaired will have much more to read on Twitter than they did before, and Twitter will continue to work on making Twitter more accessible to people everywhere.

[Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images News]