Instagram has over 1 billion active users worldwide and many brand’s want to capitalise on this powerful, free-to-use marketing tool – and they’re quite right to. Your business’ Instagram account is a hub for your company and should reflect your brand’s voice and values. But how does your Instagram accessibility fare up? If you’re keen on creating an inclusive space with a community ethos, then thinking about your Instagram accessibility is paramount.  

Marketing cannot be considered inclusive of people with disabilities if it is not accessible.

Hannah Frankl for Think With Google, November 2020

Do visually impaired people use Instagram?

Yes – visually impaired people do use Instagram. Instagram uses the same AI technology as its parent company, Facebook, which allows screen readers to describe the visuals. There are many ways that you can adapt your Instagram content to cater for visually impaired consumers which we will discuss below.

How do you make your Instagram accessible?

In this post, we’re going to offer our three top tips for making your Instagram as accessible as possible for visually impaired users.

  1. Using Instagram alt text
  2. Formatting your hashtags
  3. Considering your use of emojis

Using Instagram Alt Text

How does alt text work on Instagram?

Alt text, or alternative text, is used to describe the content of an image or video. It is used on websites and allows Google to ‘read’ and understand the visual. However, did you know that there’s Instagram alt text, too?

Instagram introduced this feature in 2018, however many users brands still don’t know about it, and it can be tricky to find the feature on the platform.  With Instagram’s AI technology, alt text is automatically generated for your posts, but we strongly recommend using customisable alt text so you can ensure the copy is as informative as possible.

To add Instagram alt text to an image before sharing on your feed:

1. Press ‘Advanced Settings’ at the bottom of the screen just before you share your post

2. Underneath the ‘Accessibility’ header, press ‘Write alt text’

3. Write your Instagram alt text and then press ‘Done’

To add Instagram alt text retrospectively:

1. Press the ellipse on the top right of your Instagram image

2. Press ‘Edit’

3. On the bottom right of the image, press ‘Edit Alt Text’

A visual guide showing the steps for how to add Instagram alt text retrospectively.

What should I write for alt text on Instagram?

When a visually impaired user accesses your Instagram post, their screen reader will read out the alt text to them so they can understand your image. Therefore, it’s helpful to be as clear and descriptive as possible.

Producing Instagram alt text is also a great way of showcasing your brand’s voice. Add some personality to the alt text to create a delightful experience for your visually impaired audience and help them better understand your brand identity.

Instagram alt text allows you to tap into a huge section of the population. There are almost 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK alone – be a brand that welcomes them.

Can you use Instagram alt text for SEO?

Yes, you can use Instagram alt text for SEO. Google will read the alt text accompanying your image, and so writing Instagram alt text for SEO can improve the chances of your content featuring in the SERPs for visual search. Think about what keywords would be appropriate to use and keep the description to 125 characters where possible. However, the primary purpose of alt text is to improve your Instagram accessibility, so don’t compromise this for the sake of the search engine. Take the time to think strategically about how you can do both, and do both well.

Formatting Your Hashtags

Using Camel Case when writing hashtags is a recognised practice and a quick and easy way for you to improve your Instagram accessibility. Camel Case is defined as the practice of capitalising the first letter of each word in a phrase or sentence and removing any other characters – like spaces, full stops, numbers, hyphens and other special characters.

So, in the world of hashtags, Camel Case looks like this:

#ImprovingInstagramAccessibility

as opposed to this:

#improvinginstagramaccessibility

Not only is this easier for everybody to read and digest, but it’s extremely helpful for visually impaired users. Using Camel Case ensures that screen readers read out each word separately!

Considering Your Use of Emojis

Everybody loves an emoji, and they offer a great way for you to convey your brand’s character. In fact, almost 50% of Instagram posts feature emojis in the caption. However, if you want to improve your business’ Instagram accessibility, you should think carefully about how many emojis you use in each image caption.

For people using screen readers, an emoji overload is no fun. Screen readers are programmed to read the assigned text description for each emoji.

So, if your post looks like this:

Screen reader users will hear this:

“Sun with face, palm tree, smiling face with sunglasses, thumbs up, spiral shell, water wave, tropical fish.”

Our advice would be to limit the number of emojis you use in each post and keep your emojis separated in one section of your caption, for example at the end. Interspersing your caption with an emoji here or there can make it more challenging for a visually impaired user to understand what you’re trying to say.

Improving your brand’s Instagram accessibility is essential. Morally, it’s the right thing to do as it creates an inclusive space, and users can be quick to highlight and shout about a brand’s shortcomings when it comes to inclusivity.

So, when it comes to your brand’s social media strategy, don’t overlook the importance of improving your Instagram accessibility for visually impaired users. If you need support with this, please get in touch with our content specialists.