Chris Ashton

week11y issue 124

This week is a ‘social media special’, where I cover recent social media stories centered around accessibility.

Misuse of Twitter’s Alt Text Feature Draws Criticism From Accessibility Advocates

Since 2016, when Twitter first made it possible to write alt text, the text was only really retrievable by screen reader users. The result was that only a small fraction of images ever had alt text written for them.

In April, Twitter made it easier for all users to view alt text. The increased visibility has led to a rise in misuse. Instead of describing images, some accounts use the alt text field to “add hyperlinks, caption credits and source citations”, or “as a place to hide jokes, supplementary information or alternative captions from the main timeline”.

Critics say that Twitter bungled the roll-out, by not properly explaining the purpose of the alt text feature. It has started testing a new setting: a pop-up that gives more information and reminds people to add descriptions to their images. Some users would like to see Twitter go further, by detecting alt text misuse and flagging it to the author, by extending the 1000 character alt text limit, and by allowing people to retrospectively add alt text to images.

TikTok’s new captions and translation features are all about accessibility

This Digital Trends article covers a TikTok announcement about new accessibility tools coming to the social media platform. It is currently on a gradual roll-out and is only available on select videos.

Viewers will now have the option to turn on auto-generated captions for videos – something that only creators have been able to do until now.

TikTok will also be supporting translations for captions and for ‘stickers’ that creators embed in their videos. The following languages will be supported initially, with more to come: English, Portuguese, German, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, and Turkish.

On the subject of social media, have you considered sharing this frequent11y newsletter with your friends and colleagues? Please consider writing a quick tweet and pointing people to – it would really help me out and give me even more reason to keep writing!

This Toronto TikToker has gained a big following by reviewing restaurants. But her focus is on more than the food

Taylor Lindsay-Noel has over 17,000 followers and half a million views on her videos on TikTok. She reviews restaurants, but with a focus on the accessibility of the venue.

Taylor is quadriplegic and uses a 350 pound power chair, so even a single step stair at the entrance can be a big accessibility issue. Taylor researches restaurants online before visiting them, and calls ahead of time to double check that the venue is accessible, so is not afraid to give critical reviews when that turns out not to be the case!

People have been reaching out to Taylor to thank her, as it can be difficult to get the true picture of a place online, and it can be hard to find accessible eateries. Whilst her reviews are largely limited to Toronto establishments, Taylor is succeeding in raising awareness more widely, noting that a lot of “able-bodied people who want to do their part” will now spot accessibility issues and complain about them, after seeing her videos.

NASA’s alt text

This tweet from NASA’s official Twitter account has been heralded as a great example of alt text. According to an article I covered earlier: “Accessibility advocates were delighted. NASA’s alt text was thoughtful and evocative, but most important did its job of capturing an image fully with words to make it accessible to all.”

The background of space is black. Thousands of galaxies appear all across the view. Their shapes and colors vary. Some are various shades of orange, others are white. Most stars appear blue, and are sometimes as large as more distant galaxies that appear next to them. A very bright star is just above and left of center. It has eight bright blue, long diffraction spikes. Between 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock in its spikes are several very bright galaxies. A group of three are in the middle, and two are closer to 4 o’clock. These galaxies are part of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and they are warping the appearances of galaxies seen around them. Long orange arcs appear at left and right toward the center.

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