Toward the end of 2018, Instagram made strides to make their platform more accessible for those who are visually impaired. This is important as more than 285 million people in the world have a visual impairment, and Instagram is one of the biggest platforms in the world.
Instagram has added two new ways for screen readers to read photos. They’ve added an automatic alternative text, which enables people to hear descriptions through their screen reader when a person uses their Instagram. The automatic alternative text uses object recognition technology to generate a description of the photo. Instagram has also introduced custom alternative text where you can go in and add your own description to your photos.
Alt text can be added to photos during the publishing step.
Alt text can also be added to existing photos in these easy steps.
All and all, we believe it’s better to write your own text than rely on the automatic alt text, as your own written descriptions will likely be more accurate.
The alt text feature is still not present in Instagram Stories. The Royal National Institute of Blind People, a British nonprofit, tweeted congrats when the news broke on Twitter, but advised Instagram to make the feature work in Stories. Instagram Stories is just as popular as scrolling and exploring the platform. About 40% of the platform’s 1 billion users post to their Story every day.
In the same article, a software engineer at the BBC, Louise Taylor, said they wished finding the alt text option was easier.
The other thing we wish could be changed is the number of characters you’re allowed to use. Right now, users have a 100 character limit on alt text. Maybe one day it will expand – until recently, Twitter had a 140 character limit. But now you can type up to 280 characters.
It is unclear for how long object identification has been around on Instagram, but there’s no denying it will be useful for advertising if it isn’t already.
Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has had artificial intelligence-generated alternative text since April 2016.
When reporters asked an Instagram spokesperson why accessibility has taken so long, they replied the features have been “an ongoing project for some time.” They also added, “the challenge was ensuring that we could provide valuable descriptions at scale.” What this means is that while advanced artificial intelligence can recognize what’s in a photo, it has a hard time understanding what’s important. The spokesperson also addressed because Instagram is a very visual platform, this is why it took two and a half years longer than Facebook to roll out accessibility features.
Do you need help making your business’ online presence more accessible to those who are visually impaired? At Sperling Interactive, we build websites that are ADA compliant. Call us today to learn more about our company.