Alt text and image descriptions can be auto-generated by some platforms, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and BlueSky all allow users to manually write custom image descriptions, which is always preferred to anything that has been auto-generated by an AI program.
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The alt text field on the desktop version of Facebook can be found by clicking Edit in the upper left corner of an image before posting it to a Facebook page, profile, or group and typing the image description in the appropriate field.
In the Facebook mobile app, the alt text field is found under the three dots in the upper right corner of an uploaded image. This can be deceptive since there’s also an Edit button in the app like there is on the desktop, but the alt text field is not housed there.
Users may notice a warning display on Facebook that alt text is normally less than 100 characters. An image description should be as long as it needs to be in order to make a visual accessible.
Posting an accessible image via the Instagram app requires a few clicks. When a user gets to the final publishing screen, they'll need to tap Advanced Settings, scroll to Accessibility near the bottom of the next screen, click Write Alt Text, and then the final screen will show a field for each uploaded image where image descriptions can be written.
The alt text field is actually easier to find on the desktop version of Instagram than it is on the app. A drop-down labeled Accessibility will be shown below the caption area on the final publishing screen. When clicked, the expanded view will show each uploaded image with an alt text field next to them where image descriptions can be written.
To access the alt text field on the Threads app, upload an image and then click the button labeled Alt in the lower left corner of the image. A new window will show up where an image description can be written. If a post has multiple images, descriptions will need to be added to each image one at a time.
Before typing in the Threads alt text field, a disclaimer will show near the bottom indicating that if the alt text field is left blank, the Threads app will automatically add a description for the user. Please do not rely on auto-generated image descriptions. They aren't normally very descriptive or accurate enough to be considered accessible and will lack important context.
Threads has a visible alt text badge that users can opt into seeing. To activate the alt text badge, users need to navigate to their Threads profile, click the two lines above their profile picture to access Settings, select Account, and then click Accessibility. They will then see a setting labeled "show alt text" that they can toggle on. Once activated, users will see a visible alt text badge in the lower left corner of an image in their feed if the content creator has added alt text to it. As of August 9, 2023, the feature appears to be available to some Threads users, but not all.
NOTE: some users may not have access to the Threads alt text field. As of July 18, 2023, this was an update for iOS users, but even some iOS users are reporting glitches with the alt text field like an inability to edit their alt text or the alt text field missing completely.
On the desktop version and mobile app of Twitter, along with the most updated version of TweetDeck, the alt text field can be found by clicking Add Description below an uploaded image. Users can also add image descriptions to GIFs on Twitter if they its built-in GIF library on the mobile and desktop versions of the platform or on the updated version of TweetDeck.
When a visual is tweeted with an image description, a visible alt text badge will appear in the lower left corner of the image on the timeline that users can click to read the image description.
Twitter has an image description reminder that can be turned on in the platform’s accessibility settings. If a user has the feature activated and tries to post a tweet without an image description, Twitter will remind them to fill out the alt text field before publishing the tweet.
Finding Pinterest's alt text field for Pinterest is also quite easy, but it’s only an option for new pins uploaded directly to the platform. It is not currently possible to retroactively add an image description to someone else's existing pin.
When a new pin is uploaded, a button labeled Add alt text is shown to the right of the image on desktop. This functionality is the same in the Pinterest mobile app except instead of a button, a labeled alt text field is immediately shown under the uploaded image.
To add an image description to a BlueSky post via desktop or the mobile app, click ALT in the upper left corner of an uploaded image. A new window will pop up showing the image along with an alt text field below it where an image description can be written.
Like Twitter, BlueSky has a visible alt text badge. The platform also has an accessibility setting that, when opted into, requires users to write image descriptions for any visuals they want to post. If a user uploads an image to a post and doesn't write an image description, the Post button will not be clickable and a small warning banner will appear at the top of the window that reads, "One or more images is missing alt text."
NOTE: BlueSky is a beta application that's still in development as of July 2023.
Meta Business Suite on desktop can be used to schedule posts with image descriptions to Facebook pages and Instagram business accounts.
After uploading an image, click the button to the right of the thumbnail that features a pencil icon. A new window will open showing the image with editing options listed to the left. Alt text will be the last labeled option. This functionality is identical for both Facebook and Instagram posts.
NOTE: many users have reported a glitch where they write image descriptions in the alt text field for scheduled posts in Meta Business Suite, but the image descriptions do not ship with their published posts. Please make sure to double-check any posts published via Meta Business Suite to avoid this issue.
Image accessibility features vary across third-party management tools and apps but most can access the alt text fields for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at the very least. Below is a sampling of different third-party management systems and SaaS companies and how they handle image accessibility.
Most third-party sites cannot access Instagram's alt text field due to API restrictions. If you use a management system that cannot access Instagram alt text field, write your image description directly in the caption area of your post to make it accessible or schedule the post natively in the Instagram app.
If you're considering a third-party management system for your brand or organization, make sure to ask the following questions when connecting with a company's sales rep:
The following social media management tools and apps can access Facebook's alt text field when scheduling posts:
The following social media management tools and apps can access Twitter's alt text field when scheduling posts:
The following social media management tools and apps can access Instagram's alt text field when scheduling posts:
The following social media management tools and apps can access LinkedIn's alt text field when scheduling posts:
The following social media management tools and apps can access Pinterest's alt text field when scheduling posts: