The other day, I received a post request on Twitter asking about how to make Instagram stories accessible for low vision users. While I am not an active Instagram user, I am very familiar with Instagram stories and how they are used, as well as how inaccessible they can be for users with visual impairments due to many different factors. Here are my tips for how to make Instagram stories accessible for low vision users- please note that this will not help with screen reader users, as Instagram stories are inaccessible with a screen reader at this time.
What are Instagram stories?
For those not familiar with the platform, Instagram stories are photos and videos posted to a user’s Instagram account that are set to disappear after 24 hours. Users can opt to save stories to their profile as highlights, or let the posts disappear automatically. Instagram stories can be found at the top of the feed, and are accessed by tapping a person’s profile picture- note that stories will be played automatically in order of most to least recent, and will transition from profile to profile depending on how many new story updates are available.
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Examples of Instagram story posts
Examples of content included in Instagram story posts include:
- Short amounts of text accompanied by a photo
- Images that are tagged with a location
- Large amounts of text that take up the entire screen
- Photos with text included, i.e images created in graphic design programs
- Alerts to new posts or sales
- Images without any additional captions
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Existing accessibility capabilities for Instagram stories
As mentioned before, Instagram stories do not currently support screen reader users, however there are some tools that can be helpful for users who benefit from assistive technology. Some of these accessibility capabilities include:
- Screenshotting images to be enlarged in the image gallery
- Swipe-up links for accounts with more than 10K followers, so that users can link to transcripts or alt text
- High contrast text options
- Ability to use large font
- Highlighting text with bright colors
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Center buttons and other interactive content
When adding options for a survey, questions, or other interactive content, I recommend centering the buttons so that they can easily be pressed or interacted with, as putting buttons on the bottom of the screen or on the sides can be frustrating for users who want to see what they are. I recommend writing questions in larger text above the questions text box, as the text boxes often contain small print that is difficult to see. For example, if a user wanted to ask a question about books, they would write the text “what is your favorite book?” above the text box, and write “answer here” in the text box.
Use bold/high-contrast text that is easy to read
Cursive and other decorative fonts can be difficult to read for users with low vision, so I recommend using bold and high contrast text styles whenever possible. Because I have high contrast text enabled on my phone, all of the text I write in any app features the high contrast settings that is visible to anyone who sees my story. The strong/bold text is the easiest font for me to read, though I also like the modern text style with high contrast font or a colored background as well.
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Highlight text/buttons so that they are easy to locate
Speaking of highlighting, one of the most helpful things that creators can do is add highlighting or shading to the back of text/buttons so that they are easy to locate on the screen. I recommend using bright, saturated colors whenever possible, as these are less likely to blend in with the font. Users can enable highlighting when inserting text into a story, or they can use the drawing tool to shade behind the text.
Add a trigger warning for flashing lights whenever possible
Posting a story with videos from a recent concert, music video, or flickering power outage? If possible, add a trigger warning before posting content that warns users that the next few story posts have flashing lights, so that audiences who are photosensitive can avoid interacting with content that can potentially harm them. This is also helpful when creating posts- many users will add an image at the beginning of their post that gives a trigger warning/content warning for flashing or strobing lights. Do not include hashtags such as #epilepsy, #migraine, or #seizures, as many people who have these conditions use those tags to share or look for information.
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Avoid using flickering/flashing stickers
On the topic of photosensitivity, I recommend avoiding adding stickers to posts that involve flickering, flashing, or rapid color changing effects, as these can be triggering for people with photosensitivity. Instead, choose stickers that have gradual animation effects or slow-moving flickering/flashing, similar in speed to a car blinker. The same goes for filters that have flickering or flashing effects- there’s lots of other options out there, why not choose one that everyone can look at?
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I’d love to see further accessibility improvements to Instagram stories in the future, including screen reader support and the ability to disable autoplay and animations, though there are still lots of ways in the meantime that users can make Instagram stories more accessible for their audience. I hope this post on how to make Instagram stories accessible for low vision users is helpful for others!