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(Credit: Instagram)

The number of people that use social media has climbed steadily over the last six years. As social media use is only expected to increase, it's important the industry makes sure it's accessible for every user. For example, to better help deaf people participate online, many videos have started adding subtitles.

To aid accessibility, Instagram (iOS, Android) announced that it's adding features to help blind and visually impaired users enjoy the app.

SEE: New apps use AI to help make the world more accessible for blind and visually impaired people

Instagram is launching automatic alternative text so users can hear the descriptions of photos through a screen reader. The text feature works on Feed, Explore, and profiles.

"This feature uses object recognition technology to generate a description of photos for screen readers so you can hear a list of items that photos may contain as you browse the app," Instagram said in a blog post.

In addition to hearing descriptions, Instagram's new custom alternative text feature lets users add richer descriptions to their posts. More detail is then conveyed to visually impaired users when they use a screen reader.

You can add custom alternative text to any photo you upload. The feature is new, so it might not be on all devices yet.

  1. Open Instagram app.
  2. Select photo for upload.
  3. On the Share To screen, tap Advanced Settings.
  4. Tap Write Alt Text.
  5. Tap Done after adding descriptive text.
  6. Finish uploading the picture.

Instagram's addition comes much later than Facebook and Twitter, which added AI technology for its visually impaired users in 2016.

When released on Twitter, the alternative text feature met some criticism because t's at the discretion of the creator if they'll take the extra time to caption a photo a second time.

It remains to be seen whether Instagram's new feature will have the same reception. Regardless, social media sites moving toward accessibility and recognizing disabilities is a positive start.

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Takeaways

  1. To make its app more accessible to blind or visually impaired users, Instagram added automatic alternative text and custom alternative text.
  2. Automatic alternative text pairs with a screen reader to describe photos to the user. Users can add a more detailed to their descriptions with customer alternative text.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.