5 ways to make your tweets accessible

About 14 million people in the UK have a disability, and many more around the world. Perhaps your tweets aren't getting the biggest audience that they could? Making your stream accessible could help.

Twitter bird cartoon

1. Use accessible photo captions and alt text when tweeting

In 2016, Twitter brought in an option to give descriptions for images on Twitter. The descriptions are read out by screen readers to let blind people or those with low vision hear what’s in the picture.

To enable this (it sounds complicated but is very quick to activate):

  1. Go to Twitter’s app/website
  2. Go to your image in the top right-hand corner of your screen
  3. Select ‘settings and privacy’
  4. Choose ‘accessibility’ from the list on the left.
  5. Click the ‘compose image descriptions’ box to activate this option.

Then, when you compose a tweet with an image, an ‘add description’ button will appear and you can input ‘alt’ (alternative) descriptions of up to 420 characters.

This is particularly important if there are words in the picture but not always necessary if the image is abstract or purely decorative.

Note: If you're adding an infographic with complex information, it’s a good idea to link to a data table with the same information, which is likely to be more easily accessible.

For full info on adding Twitter image descriptions using your voice or with screenreader assistance, see Twitter’s help page here.

Most Tweet scheduling platforms don't have an Alt text option, but Buffer and Twitterific do offer this option. 

2. Add full photo description within the main Tweet for text-heavy images

For infographics or images with big chunks of written information contained in the picture, ie a menu - it’s simpler and neater to add a text alternative in the main text of the tweet.

3. Make your hashtags accessible

Use what’s known as ‘camel case’ for the hashtags in your tweets - #ABitLikeThis. When you do, it means screenreaders used by people who are blind or visually impaired will hear the words individually rather than as a long incoherent word, as is likely to be the case if no letters are capitalised.

4. Use plain English

Avoid acronyms and make sure the meaning of the tweet is very plainly clear. This is likely to help people on the autistic spectrum, as well as someone with a learning disability or dementia. In addition, the average reading age in the UK is nine years old. Try these tools to check the readability of your tweets - Flesch–Kincaid readability metrics or Readability-Score.com.

5. Colour contrast

If your tweet contains an infographic, make sure the colours are well contrasted, so they are easy to decipher for people who are colour-blind or have a visual impairment. There are various free sites which will check your page for colour contrast. Click here.

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