Why ‘Alt Text’ Is Awesome! – #DescribeThePic

Hi all,

Today we all take looking at photos on websites and social media is something we take for granted. But for people who are Blind or Low Vision can be really difficult if someone doesn’t take the time to describe that photos.

Screen Readers

But how exactly do Blind or Low Vision people look at these photos? Well people with Low Vision might choose to use Zoom features to be able to look at a photo or read some text, but it’s a little different for people you have no vision at all. People with no vision use something called a ‘Screen Reader’. A ‘Screen Reader’ is a piece of software, that can either be built into a device like all Apple iOS or Mac products, or in some cases android too. This little of software reads all things on the screen to a Blind person, whether that be text messages, the weather, or even ebooks. But it will always read ‘Alt Text’ on websites to describe photos. 

Alt Text

‘Alt Text’ is a simple piece of code on a website that allows people to add descriptions to photos which Screen Readers can read if the person has ‘Voice Over’ on, but it embedded into the photos, so it is hidden by sight users to your website (social media alt text will be covered below). Websites like ‘Wordpress’ make it very easy to allow owners of a website to add descriptions to photos. For more information on adding alt text to your wordpress website you can click here!

Here are two examples, the first image doesn’t have Alt Text, but the image underneath does:

Photo shows a photo of me and Guide Dog Blossom sitting in a house garden posing for a photo. Blossom is wear her Guide Dog harness.

Social Media

So adding ‘Alt Text to photos to tweets on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook is so, so easy, and even more important now more and more people are now using social media even more! So below I am going to give you some instructions on how to add Alt Text for each of these websites:

Twitter

So adding Alt Text to your photos along with your tweets is as follows:

  1. Firstly, click or tap on the compose tweet button, type out your tweet, then at the bottom, tap or click on the add photos button.
  2. Once you have selected the image, at the bottom right of the thumbnail of the image, there is an alt text button, once tap or clicked another window will appear where you can typed on the description of the photos. 
  3. Once you have typed on the description, then just tap or click then done button, then just tap or click the tweet button.

Instagram

Adding descriptions to your instagram photos goes like this:

  1. Tap on the ‘add photo’ cross at the top right of the app, the dice on the photo.
  2. Once you have added a filter if you chose to, then once the ‘New Post’ window appears click or tap the ‘advanced settings’ option that the very bottom of all the options on the page.
  3. Once there, scroll all the way down the ‘accessibility’ section, under that is the ‘write alt text’ button, tap on that. once there it gives you a huge section for you to be as descriptive as you like! The more descriptive the better!

Facebook

Unfortunately, Facebook does not have a way for you to embed the description into the photo. So the only way around this is to add a photo description underneath your post along with the photo, with the words ‘photo description’ along with the description of the photo.

Adding Alt Text, to photos to some might be an extra thing you have to when you ‘just want to post an image to your friends’. But just taking this little extra step before pressing share. Means that everyone can enjoy your photos including people with vision loss!

I have had the massive honour and privilege, on not doing this post alone! This post has been part of a campaign called #DescribeThePic along with the brilliant Siobhan Meade creator of the YouTube channel ‘Blind Girl Vlogs’ an channel of which you can find here or her twitter here. But also the wonderful Emily Davison who creates fashion and all things Visually Impaired blog posts and videos on her website, YouTube channel, and twitter whom I have follow for a while and it has been a joy to work with!

Thank you Siobhan and Emily for having me! I’ve enjoyed it so much!

I know this is complexly different to what normally post about, but this a topic which is near and dear to me, so I was something that when asked I really wanted to get involved with. So I hope you have got something out of this, and hopefully next time you post an image to social media or website.

If you decided to post a photo in the near future, or decide to make video or blog post also on this same subject, then please do so. I’d would love to hear what you guys think about this! But then you do, please use the hashtag #DescribeThePic on social media, that way people can also see your creations and your opinions too!

Due to world pandemic as many have seen, the theatre industry is none existent! So I am not sure when my next post is going to be, as there will be no Pantomime post this year. But I want to take this time to wish all a Very Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic

Apps For The Visually Impaired

Hi Everyone,

I have been blogging about my experiences going to the theatre for visually impaired people for a few of years now, and it occurred to me recently that even though yes, I tell you guys about my theatre goings-on from a visually impaired perspective, I don’t really do any visually impaired related content. I did writing about my Guide Dog Experience recently (if you haven’t read that yet, I suggest you do so). But this time I thought I would write and suggest some smartphone apps that I use. Now you may have already heard of some of these already and that’s okay, but there maybe some on this list that you might not have heard of. 

This list is in no particular order, so here it goes:

1. Netflix

Some of you might be sitting there reading this and thinking ‘why on earth have you chosen Netflix?’ Well, along with Netflix being the leading company in online streaming services, it has I believe the largest and best category of films and tv show that have Audio Description! The UK version of Netflix already has big collections of films and tv shows, but what makes Netflix stand out from all the rest is that it has its own category for Audio Description which covers tv or films. Instead of trying to search for films or tv shows and clicking on each one to see if it has AD all you have to do is just click or tap on the category which says ‘Audio Description’ and there you go! Netflix is a monthly subscription service, with their basic package being £5.99 and going far as £9.99 for their ultra package. They do offer a 30-day free trial so give it a shot!

2. TimeBuzz

Okay, now technically this is not a smartphone app, but an Apple Watch app, but hear me out. Have you ever been in a situation where you want to know what the time is, but you are afraid if you check it will look like your bored, or it will distract the people around you? Well, this solves both those problems. TimeBuzz instead of telling you the time verbally, it gives you the time by giving you physical indications by tapping you on the wrist. For example, if the time was 10:15am once you press the button, it will tap you ten times on the wrist, pause, then tap you fifteen times on the wrist, and no is the wiser!

3. Big Spender

This app is for all my fellow Guide Dog Owners out there! Have you ever been traveling in a city or place you are unfamiliar, and your dog needs to ‘spend’ and go for the toilet, and if like Blossom they only want to go on grass? Well, then this app is for you! It uses your current location and searches for the nearest public piece of grass. You do have to use a bit of common sense, as it will show you places at you just can’t get to like grass on roundabouts or it might say there is a patch of public grass, but you get there and it isn’t anymore, but on the whole, it has got me out of a jam and it does come in handy!

4. StoCard 

This has been a recent find, thanks to another visually impaired blogger/YouTuber ‘Fashioneyesa‘. This has been a lifesaver! When I’m out shopping I’m forever having a blank at to where I have put a certain loyalty card for a certain shop, with this app I don’t have to worry about that anymore. What this app does is instead of struggling to find a certain card in your wallet or purse. All you have to do is store your card into the app before you go shopping. Then when the staff asks if you have a loyalty card, you can open this app and select it, at which point it will come up with that card’s barcode or QR code for the shop assistant to scan! It will add the points automatically to your account, it works with all major UK shops and food chains so start scanning!

5. Tube Map

This app has been brilliant! Even though I’m Visually Impaired, I am lucky that I have some remaining useful vision. But sadly when I go to London and use the underground, I can’t see the large maps on the station walls or on the trains themselves. So this app takes care of all of that. It downloads the full London tube map to your phone, and you can zoom in or out as much as you need. Although the best thing about it in my opinion, is that when you search a route, it tells you how many stops it is before you get to your destination, and which ‘bound’ to use for example ‘West Bound’ or ‘North Bound’ which is for me the biggest difficulty.  

I hope that this list of apps have become useful, and has given you some new apps to try. All links to these apps are in the app titles, so just click on them and it will take you to the App Store. If you have any other suggestions as to what other Visually Impaired topics you would like me to talk about and go into, then please leave them in the comments below, or get in touch or either Facebook or Twitter!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

Shows an iPhone next to a Macbook showing a 'Home Screen' full of Apps'