Sharing pictures on social media is fun–but did you know that people who can’t see can still enjoy your fun photos with their ears?

Some social media platforms have built-in artificial intelligence that can attempt to detect what is in a photo, but it results in some pretty generic–and often very wrong–descriptions. Plus, it’s more fun to get to describe the photo in your own words. “Dog” or “Two people at a medium distance” leaves a lot to be desired when it could be “Murray, a black lab guide dog in harness looks towards the camera appearing to be smiling” or “Two people at a medium distance ride bikes in a field.”

Basically, why should you enter descriptions in your photos? So more people can have FUN and be included, that’s why.
So let’s get started.

What is alt text?

Simply put, alternate text is a simple description of what’s in your photo (or any other image). Screen readers will read the alt text, but it’s hidden within the code of a website, so it’s not visible to sighted people (unless, like me, they know how to poke around VoiceOver or JAWS).

How to use alt text on Twitter

Twitter window with photo uploaded of a turkey inside a hospital reading turkey inside hsc. an arrow points to the alt button.
  • When you add a photo on Twitter, two bubbles pop up on top of the image – +ALT and a paintbrush (edit).
  • Click +ALT.

Text box to enter alt text is shown. Words typed are Write the things about the photo
  • Describe your picture.
  • Hit Done.

Yep. It’s that easy.

How to use alt text on Facebook

Facebook create post window with a photo of Kerri's office studio with microphone, pop filter, laptop and textbooks visible on a shelf behind. The Facebook text field reads 'say something about this photo...'
  • Upload your photo as usual and hit the … [more] button in the top right.
Same image as above is darkened with a menu above with the options Remove photo, Edit photo, Make 3D, Edit alt text and Cancel

Click “edit alt text” and describe.

How to use alt text on Instagram

Instagram is the least user-friendly of the three social media options I’ll cover today, hiding the alt text in a weird place. But, at least you’ll be able to find it. As well, the Android app may be a little different but it does exist there, too.

Image of a photo upload on Instagram with text typed that reads 'power outage ice cream'. Under account and upload options. At the bottom, Advanced settings is circled by hand in green.

Upload your photo as normal, then hit Advanced Settings near the bottom.

(Yes. I know. This placement is horrendous, give me a direct button, Instagram!)

The advanced settings menu featuring the Write Alt Text option

Scroll to the bottom of the advanced settings menu and hit Write Alt Text under Accessibility.

It’s not that bad, but it’s still clunky.

Image of my friend's dog Abbey who is medium-sized and brown and white, she is gazing toward the camera. Anyways, the whole point here is that I am telling the sighted peoplewhere the Edit alt text button is, it's circled in green.

However, if you’re EDITING a post rather than adding it fresh, this will pop up with a very easy-to-find “edit alt text” button.
Unlike Twitter where you can’t edit anything, you can also add alt text later on Facebook if you forget.

PS. Isn’t my friend Katie’s doggo Abbey cute?

How to use alt text on WordPress

For our last instalment, the platform I’m writing on right now, WordPress.

Image of the field in wordpress where alt text is entered.

Add your image to wordpress and go to Edit or to your Media tab. In the right-hand menu, enter the alt text in the provided field.

Yes. It was indeed that easy.

If like me, you often upload photos to an external source, you’ll have to go into your code editor to add the alt text.

Alt text away!

Okay go have fun while making things accessible and inclusive!

Need help? Tweet me @KerriYWG

(Also yes, somehow all the other images on my blog are broken. I don’t know what happened, but it’s a fascinating irony I guess for all the images to be NOT VISIBLE while writing an alt text how-to, to just underscore how potentially annoying it is to know you are missing part of what is out there!)