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Twitter is testing alerts to remind you to add alt text to images

Alt text makes images more accessible to blind users

The Twitter bird logo in white against a dark background with outlined logos around it and red circles rippling out from it. Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter will begin testing a long-awaited accessibility feature today: reminders to add alternative text — or alt text — to image posts.

Alt text is a written description of what’s in an image and why it’s important. People who use screen readers, like blind and low-vision users, depend on alt text to understand tweets that contain a picture — think memes, screenshots of headlines, flyers for events, and more. Currently, anyone can write and add alt text for photos and GIFs they upload to Twitter, but it’s not required, and it takes a few clicks to add.

A screenshot of a tweet being composed, with a pop up reading, “Don’t forget to make your image accessible. Good image descriptions are concise yet detailed. Be sure to summarize or write out any text in the image itself. Your description makes Twitter accessible to people with disabilities, and everyone who wants more context. You can turn off this reminder in Accessibility Settings.” There are two buttons at the bottom: “add descriptions” and “not this time.”

Twitter spokesperson Shaokyi Amdo says the feature will launch today, starting with a small group of users on iOS, Android, and web, with a wider rollout planned in the coming weeks. The feature is opt-in, and users will be able to turn it on or off in settings. Amdo says the reminder will appear as a pop-up before a photo is posted without alt text, similar to the pop-up that encourages users to read an article before retweeting it.

Blind users and accessibility activists have asked for alt text reminders for some time, among other features that would make the platform more usable for people with disabilities.

In April, Twitter introduced an alt text badge, a small “ALT” marking in the corner of images and GIFs that contain alt text. The badge makes it easier for everyone — not just people using screen readers — to find and view the description added. Prior to the badge, finding alt text could be difficult without a screen reader. Now, when users click the alt text badge, the added description appears in a pop-up.