Twitter launches improved alt text accessibility features globally

Sometimes, new Twitter features can be divisive — we’ve made our feelings clear about the edit button, which is apparently in the works. But we can (hopefully) all agree that simple accessibility features are a good thing.

For a while now, Twitter has made it easy to add alt text to image uploads, allowing tweeters to provide a description of an image to aid people who use screen readers or speech-to-text programs. But until now, you haven’t been able to see what images do or do not have alt text if you weren’t using a screen reader yourself — so, for example, if you wanted to make sure that the content that you retweet was accessible to followers who might be Blind or have limited vision, you’d just have to retweet and hope for the best.

After a successful test last month, Twitter is rolling out two additions to its alt text feature. Starting today, images with alt text will contain an “ALT” badge in the corner of the image. When you hover over the badge, you’ll see the user-generated image description.

Oftentimes on social media, users who don’t have disabilities aren’t thinking about how their posting habits — even sharing certain meme formats — can adversely affect disabled users’ experience online, or prevent them from joining the conversation.

Social media accessibility expert Alexa Heinrich thinks this feature is a step in the right direction because it makes the presence of alt text more apparent, prompting users to learn about the accessibility practice.

“One, it makes it more obvious who’s writing alt text and who isn’t. Second, the feature is a great learning tool for anyone who wants to get better at writing alt text because now you can easily see what others are writing,” she tweeted.

Twitter says these new features will go live today for all users globally. So, it’s as good a time as ever to learn why and how you should be writing alt text.