A new feature that allows people to include descriptions of photographs on Twitter has been hailed as a major development in accessible communications.

Disability charity RNIB said the development would open up brands and businesses to millions of new people as it will empower blind and partially sighted people to digest visual content easily and provide a way for brands and businesses to engage with even more people. As the screen-reading software that blind and partially sighted people use to follow social media can't read pictures, users with sight loss miss out on a lot of content.

Commenting on the changes Terry Hawkins, Head of Business to business solutions at RNIB, said: “We’re delighted to see Twitter taking some more proactive steps to make their platform accessible for all users, regardless of whether they have any disabilities or are blind or partially sighted. Social media platforms can be poor performers in the accessibility stakes, so it’s great to see one of the core ones taking steps to become more accessible. Images are the central point of many social media networks, so it’s almost surprising that it’s taken up until now for much to be done about the fact that people living with sight loss struggle to digest some of the content on them."

The development will rely on Twitter users to add captions of up to 420 characters to the images they use, but with over two million people in the UK living with sight loss, RNIB is warning that businesses that don't take advantage of the feature will ostracise a huge potential customer base. It could also open them up to criticism about their dedication to being accessible.

“While it’s still to be seen whether regular consumers will incorporate tagging their images into their daily lives, if businesses fail to do so they will be missing out on a trick," said Hawkins.

"The only issue I can currently see with the change is the fact that users have to actively go into the settings on their phone to enable the feature, which could hamper its uptake. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how businesses and brands use the feature and whether it will be as well received as Twitter hopes.”

source thirdforce news april 2016