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Alt-text crimes

“Alt text (alternative text) describes the appearance or function of an image on a page. Alt text is read aloud by screen readers used by visually impaired users, displays in place of an image if it fails to load and is indexed by search engine bots to better understand the content of your page.” Moz

Promoting accessibility is one of our passions here at Neon Caffeine, so we decided to look at how well universities are making use of alt-text in their social posts.

Braille spelling out "alt-text"
Alt-text written in braille

Our sleuthing

Our alt-text detectives spent a few days back in the summer on the hunt for ‘accessibility crimes’.

Given the scale of the task, we kept our research simple, focusing on one platform and arguably the easiest one to add alt-text to posts - Twitter.

  • We reviewed the Twitter profiles of 160 UK higher education institutions

  • We looked at their last 10 tweets with images attached

  • We assigned each institution a score out of 10, one point earned for each image containing alt-text

  • We also recorded any use of third-party scheduling tools in use for some or all tweets posted

For the purpose of this research we excluded retweeted image posts, video posts, and image previews from links in posts.

A yellow paper rosette against a bright blue background

The Top 10 Alt-texters

We know how much higher education loves a top 10, well by chance only 10 institutions managed to score full marks in our research.

Yes, you read that right. Only 10 institutions had 100% alt-text completeness across 1,600 image tweets reviewed. We’re as shocked as you.

Your alt-text superstars are, in no particular order:

  • York St John University

  • Middlesex University

  • Lancaster University

  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

  • University College London

  • University of Manchester

  • University of Oxford

  • University of Sheffield

  • University of York

  • University of Glasgow

50% of the top 10 post natively to Twitter rather than using a third party tool.

A pink mug on its side, with pink sauce spilling out and food shaped in letters spelling "Doing my best"

Must try harder brigade

29 institutions scored 6 - 9 out of 10, resulting in some content being accessible but with the remainder letting them down.

What might be impacting their score?

  • Do they have multiple people posting and are they all trained in making content accessible?

  • Are they using a third party tool to post some of the content and under-utilising accessibility features?

  • Was the social media manager just overworked and it slipped their mind?

All of these institutions were predominantly posting via a social media management platform.

A desk with a computer screen showing the words "Do More". Around the desk is a keyboard, stationery, a glass and in the background a shelf with plants and books.

The stragglers

This group of 37 institutions scored between 1 - 5 points, giving their audience a low level of accessible content across their tweets with images.

The reasons for their scores could include lack of training or maybe they just don’t feel it is important. Either way, improvement is needed when it comes to inclusive content.

68% of this group posted using a social media management tool, and the remaining 32% posted directly to Twitter.

A red neon sign spelling out "Offenders" against a black background

Alt-text offenders

84 institutions failed to include alt-text on any of their tweets, that’s 840 tweets with no accessible image content.

70 of the 84 institutions post using a scheduling tool, potentially demonstrating users don’t know how to add alt-text to social posts (if the feature is available on the tool).

Scrabble letter tiles scattered on a pink background, in the centre some of the tiles spell out "You can do it"

6 ways to avoid being an alt-text criminal

1 Turn on alt-text reminders for your Twitter posts

2 Invite a visually impaired speaker to a team meeting

3 Make it a team priority / mandatory alt-text

4 Make full use of the free resources on the Accessible Social website

5 Learn how your scheduling tool can assist you in adding alt-text

6 Learn from those who experience the challenges we’re seeking to address, check out The Staying Inn for some first hand advice

What next…

We know we make mistakes and are equally learning, so this blog is intended to raise awareness of just one way you can make your content more accessible.

It would seem using a social media management tool can assist you in forgetting to add alt-text. If you do use a tool, tip 5 above is definitely one for your team.

Practice makes perfect as the saying goes, so let’s get to it and make our social content on Twitter and other platforms much more accessible for all.


How did your institution score?

Want to know how your university scored? Drop us an email at to find out.


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