Blind veteran asking Twitter users to caption images goes viral

Post date: 
Monday, 15 January 2018
Screen-grab of Twitter's home screen with status bar asking: "What's happening?"

First introduced in 2016, a little-known accessibility feature on Twitter has attracted a wave of attention thanks to a tweet by veteran Rob Long earlier this month.

In 2010, Rob Long was serving in Afghanistan when he was hit by a bomb and lost his sight aged 23. He now has two prosthetic glass eyes.
Like many blind and partially sighted people, Rob uses his phone to help him to interact with the world around him.
On Wednesday 3 January, Rob Long tweeted an easy way that everyone can make Twitter more accessible for people with sight loss. By adding a text description to photos, people who use screen readers can have that description read out to them.

Rob Long (@_Red_Long): I’m a blind Twitter user. There are a lot of us out there. Increase your ability to reach us and help us interact with your pictures, it’s really simple and makes a huge difference to our Twitter experience allowing us to see your images our way. Thanks for the description.

Since then, Rob’s series of tweets has been shared over 145,000 times.
Eleanor Southwood, Chair of RNIB, says: “Social media is a really powerful way of bringing people together. Adding image descriptions to pictures on Twitter is quick and easy but makes a massive difference to blind and partially sighted people. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to activate and use this feature, so pictures shared on Twitter are accessible to everyone.”

How to turn on Twitter’s image description

  1. You can enable the feature on Twitter's app and website by going to Settings and Privacy, entering the Accessibility menu and checking the Compose Image Descriptions box.
  1. The next time you add an image to one of your tweets, an Add Description button will appear at the bottom of it.
  1. Clicking this will take you to an Image Description screen, where you can add a description of the picture.

What about Facebook?

Accessibility features work slightly differently on Facebook, as it uses artificial intelligence to predict what the picture is.

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