Twitter image accessibility

The way we use Twitter isn't accessible for everyone.

UPDATE: March 29 2016. Twitter have announced that they will support a limited amount of alt text on images posted to twitter. Unfortunately they will not be enforcing alt text or using AI to determine what is in an image.

I just switched to using a command-line Twitter client and I was again reminded about how limiting it is to use Twitter when you cannot see the images contained in a tweet.

Screenshot of my twitter client, Rainbowstream

In RainbowStream, tweets with images show up heavily pixellated. Obviously this is a limitation of being a skinny-jeaned hipster and using a command-line client.

But what about if you don’t have a choice of how you see Twitter? What if your eyesight is impaired in some way? Even if you’re working around this with large text, or a screen-reader, there’s still a good chance that an image would be unviewable.

This isn’t too much of a problem if people are posting images as accessories to their tweets. But if they’re screencapping chunks of texts, from books, sites or other tweeted conversations, and not linking back to the originals then that suddenly becomes a very alienating experience for you.

To help people understand, I’ve quickly scribbled a bookmarklet that makes images inaccessible to fully-sighted users. Just drag the following to your browser bookmark menu and click it when on twitter dot com.

Twitter blurred images

Your images should look something like this:

A blurred image from twitter.com

Try and use it regularly and remind yourself about how tweets and images work when your ability to see images is limited.

I know Twitter itself is rubbish and halts attempts at accessibility. It’s criminal that it doesn’t provide a way to provide alt text and vexing that there’s no way to embed chunks of text. But until we build up a broad consciousness of how inaccessible it is and for us all to begin to pressure it, nothing will change.

Top tips

  • You can still use images, even for screencaps - just provide an alternative.
  • If you’re posting images that contain chunks of text, then also make an accessible copy in a Github Gist: https://gist.githubusercontent.com/SonniesEdge/6c0edb64969f94c4bf0c/raw
  • If you’re linking to a series of tweets, and the author hasn’t threaded, then Storify them and link to that.
  • If you’re posting a photo, try and describe it in the text, or make your tweet work without having to see the image.

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