Over the last few years, Instagram has exploded in popularity and expanded their accessibility settings, making it easier than ever to use Instagram with blindness or low vision. While having access to these accessibility settings is awesome, there are still many steps that users can take to ensure their Instagram feed is accessible for people with visual impairments or those who benefit from image description. Here are my tips for how to make your Instagram feed accessible for visual impairment, from the perspective of a user with low vision.
Add alt text to images
Alt text is a short text-based description of images that includes information such as text, scene descriptions, and other descriptive information. People who use screen readers such as VoiceOver, TalkBack, or Select-to-speak listen to the alt text as their only way of knowing what is in an image, so having alt text written for images is incredibly important for making an accessible Instagram feed for assistive technology users. Instagram supports alt text up to 100 characters, and alt text can be added or edited once a picture is posted.
TO ADD ALT TEXT TO NEW INSTAGRAM POSTS:
- Create a new post
- Click “compose alt text” underneath advanced settings of the post
- Type alt text of your choice
- Click “done” when finished
TO ADD ALT TEXT TO EXISTING INSTAGRAM POSTS:
- Click on the three vertical dots at the top of the post
- Click “edit”
- Tap the “alt text” option that is directly on top of the photo, next to the “tag people” option.
- Add your own alt text and save it to the photo
Use high contrast text
While using light text on a light background or dark text on a dark background may look interesting, many people with low vision or color deficiencies will have trouble reading information. Make sure there is good contrast between text and background colors and that fonts are easy-to-read. This is especially helpful for business profiles.
- My Eight Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- How To Create High Resolution Images For Users With Low Vision
Put image descriptions in captions
A picture is worth a thousand words, but alt text is only 100 characters. I highly recommend writing an additional image description in the captions, or attaching an image description as the first comment to provide more information about an image and different elements included. For example, alt text tells someone that there’s a puddle on the floor, and image description tells someone that the puddle on the floor is in the middle of the floor and it’s orange juice. I have an entire post about writing image descriptions for Instagram linked below.
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions For Instagram
- How To Write Alt Text For Digital Comics
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
If possible, add captions to videos
While this may not be strictly related to visual impairment, including captioning whenever possible ensures that people are able to read what someone is saying instead of having to rely on listening to information, which is helpful if someone has trouble hearing or is sensitive to sound. One of my friends captions all of the videos in their story with a bold font and highlights the captions with a bright color so that they are easy to read, and it ensures their videos are able to be watched by a larger audience.
Have large text in Stories
Speaking of large text, I recommend using it whenever possible when creating Instagram stories to ensure that people are able to read them. I have a high contrast font built in to my phone that works well for Stories since it can be read on any background, plus it looks great with different highlight colors. While it’s difficult to use magnification on Stories, many of my friends will screenshot an image and then zoom in their gallery to read it.
Add Story information in the timeline, if relevant
Since the Stories function isn’t accessible for screen reader users, I highly recommend including relevant story information on the Instagram timeline, either in a caption or as its own post (you can always edit the caption later). This is helpful for notifying people about a sale or other special event, and can also be read easily outside of the Instagram app, since Stories tend to look strange outside of the app.
Avoid using strobe lights on the first image in a group
I have intense photosensitivity to flashing and strobe lights. While I have auto-play disabled on all of my devices, there have been many times I have clicked an image and received surprise strobe lights, followed by a surprise migraine. When posting a group of images, make sure the first image is not strobing so that no one is surprised by sudden lights, or add a trigger/content warning in the caption for strobe lights or flashing lights.
- How To Check Videos For Flashing Light Sensitivities
- Five Common Technology Behaviors That Hurt My Brain
I’m excited to see how many Instagram accounts have embraced accessible and universal design to ensure their profiles and Instagram feed is accessible for people with visual impairments, and I hope more accounts will continue to do so in the future. By embracing these tips to improve your Instagram profile, you can expand your audience and ensure everyone can see your awesome posts!