Dear Brands, My Disability Shouldn’t Be a Meme – Social Factor Alert

The misuse of AltText has become a hot topic recently as some brands are being called out for misusing the feature. Alt text, or alternative text, describes an image or video that conveys its content to people with visual impairments. Recent trends, however, have shown how alt text can be misused. Most notably, brands on Twitter using alt text to hide easter eggs, additional information, and jokes have incited backlash from users who rely on alt text.

After companies like McDonald’s and Redbull were found using alt text inappropriately, Eyewear company Specsavers released a statement condemning the trend. This trend continues to gain momentum on social media, with some users defending the movement as harmless and humorous. 

Ultimately, the misuse of alt text can harm the accessibility of online content and have serious consequences for visually impaired individuals who rely on the feature to understand the content of an image. Every day, brands have an opportunity to promote people with disabilities by advocating the responsible use of alt text. While the AltText meme has caused division among users, it is important to consider this trend’s impact on visually impaired individuals and act accordingly.

Key Suggestions for Brands

  • All in the Detail. Alt text should create an inclusive experience for people using assistive technology. Consider not only the objective description but also the nuances, details, and relevant emotions. For example, NASA’s descriptions of the James Webb Space Telescope are incredibly detailed and received multiple praises across Twitter. 
  • Follow the Do’s and Don’ts. There are some helpful rules that will enhance the experience for alt-text users and show that brands care about inclusivity. First, do not include “picture of” or “image of” in your description. Do not make assumptions, add opinions, or make qualitative statements. Also, use correct grammar. Capitalizing the first letter and ending whole sentences with a period can make a world of difference. 
  • Speak to Everyone. Keep digital communication clear and simple. Even in niche and specialized communities, avoid jargon and unnecessary terminology. Ensure everyone understands and relates, not just the experts.

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