As a TVI/COMS, one of our main resources is Facebook. Where else can you ask a question and receive instant, practical help by peers and experts? There are numerous VI professional Facebook groups to belong to - everything from groups for TVIs, COMS, parents of kids with visual impairments, groups for specific eye conditions, groups for specific types of tech for users who are blind or low vision, blind musicians, space camp for students with visual impairments, . . . the list is endless! And yet, the VI professionals who post, regularly forget to include alt text descriptions of pictures/images. As a TVI, COMS, professional, parent, and/or student who is blind or low vision, we should be the ones leading the way with accessible posts. After all, we know all about accessibility. . . and yet, picture after picture without alt text descriptions roll by on these Facebook groups for and about VI.
So, how can you add alt text to a picture/image on Facebook?
Adding Alt Text to Images on Facebook
First, you must be the one to add the image or have administrative rights to the Facebook page. You should add the alt text as you post the picture; however, you can go back and add alt text descriptions to your previously posted images. Facebook does automatically generate alt text; however, the alt text is very generic, such as "A person standing outside." Your Alt Text description can provide important information, including who is in the picture and why the picture is posted. If the picture is about surfing on your beach vacation, then include that information! Example: "8-year old Johnny with one foot on the surfboard and arms windmilling - just seconds before falling into the ocean!"
Pictures on professional groups should provide appropriate information that follow along with the reason for the post. If the image is of a young student using a Perkins Brailler. You could add a description of the student such as a, "3-year old boy with three fingers on the Perkins Brailler keys, concentrating on making a braille letter on the Perkins Brailler." That description provides a bunch of information. However, if the goal of the image is to show that Perkins keys have been modified with Velcro loops to help the student with correct finger placement, the image description did not provide that information. So, always keep in mind the goal of the picture and the target audience when creating alt text descriptions.
When adding a new image
- In Facebook, select the desired image
- Hover over the image (a popup appears)
- Select Edit
- Write your alt text in the box
- Select Save
When adding alt text to an existing image
- When in Facebook, select the desired image
- Select the More button (3 dots in the top right)
- Select Change Alt Text (override the generated alt text)
- Write your alt text in the box
- Click Save
YouTube video, "How to Add Alt Text to Facebook Photo"
Editor's Note: I frequently respond to questions posted on professional Facebook groups with links to a Paths to Technology blog post. When adding the link (which includes an associated image with the blog post), it is not possible to add an alt text to the image embedded with the link. Instead, I will add the alt text for the embedded image directly to the thread for everyone to see. The Facebook post will have a comment to introduce the post, the written and visible alt text description, the post's associated image, then the link. Honestly, I really like the visible alt text, as it hopefully reminds other Facebook group members to include these important descriptions!
In the example below, the Facebook post content is, "Back to School Activities: What are your favorite 'ice-breaker" activities for the first week of school? Adapted from a gen ed classroom, this is an inclusive activity or can be done 1:1 with your student who is blind or low vision. (Hint: It is a great intro to a self-advocacy lesson too!) [Image: Teacher's desk with "Back to School Activity: How I Like to Learn" written on the chalkboard."]
Note: The Alt Text description of this same Back to School image is different in this Paths to Technology post. The image is the same, but the goal of the image is different. The alt text in this post is, "Screenshot of VI Facebook group post showing the post content and a linked post; the link post has a visible image description of the Path's to Technology's linked post and associated image, PerkinseLearning.org, and the title of the post."
Don't forget! Your students with visual impairments should also include alt text descriptions to their Facebook posts. Encourage your student to teach friends and family to include alt text descriptions in their Facebook posts so that your student can join in the fun of using social media!
- Facebook: How to Add Image Descriptions post
- How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for Instagram
- Creating Image Descriptions (Alt Text)
- How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired