Did you know you could be the difference between an accessible social network or not for the visually impaired? Yes, you! Learn to describe media on Twitter and Mastodon and make your content accessible!
Important: Have in mind this feature isn't similar to the Facebook implementation of alt text, where image description is made automatically by object recognition technology and you have no say in how it is described. On both Twitter and Mastodon you have to describe images manually using no more than 420 characters.
On the desktop version of the website: This option is on the "Accessibility" tab from the "Settings" menu. You can access it directly here.
On mobile apps: This option is also available on the "Accessibility" tab from the "Settings and privacy" menu.
On the mobile version of the website: This feature isn't available.
There isn't an option to turn this feature on and off; it was made available for everyone by default from version 2.0.0.
On desktop: As you upload an image, you'll notice a black strip on it saying "Add description". Click on it.
This will open a the image description tool. Make a proper description and click on "Apply".
And it's done! Now this image has a description attached.
Mobile apps: The same process applies.
Third party apps: This feature is included on the REST API according to Twitter. If the app you use doesn't have it yet, talk to its developers and ask for it!
In both the desktop and mobile version of the website the image description feature looks and behaves the same way. Rest the mouse on the image attached or make a single touch on it to reveal a black strip saying "Describe for the visually impaired". Click on it to begin describing the media.
The writing takes place on the strip itself, without opening an additional window. Once you are done writing, the description will be applied.
Apps: Mastodon doesn't have a official application, but has an open API which makes it easier to develop great third party apps. If the app you use doesn't have it yet, talk to its developers and ask for it!
Sidney Andrade, the wonderful person behind the Instagram profile @descrevepramim, wrote an article in Brazilian Portuguese called "How to make your timelines more accessible to blind people". Since he gives some amazing tips, I'll translate some of them:
While the three methods described above also work on Mastodon, it has a simple way to view the associated text: resting the pointer on the image.
No, you have to describe them on a different tweet. I recommend you use some sort of indicator so the description is easier to identify, such as:
[Image description: [your description here]]
Eugen actually tried to implement a way to do it, as you can see on the attributes of this GIF I tried to describe:
Unfortunately, it doesn't work as intended so I advise you to follow the method I explained above. But if you have any ideas about how to implement it effectively, make a suggestion on the project's repository.
Now that you know what can be done and how, I hope this motivates you to change your habits and to describe any media you share. Thank you for reading and please, pass this information on!