Skip to content

Click Here: Twitter Alt Text Meme That Isn’t Funny For Blind People

May 5, 2023


You’ve probably seen one of the latest Twitter memes doing the rounds.

There’s black text – “click here” – on a white background. And an arrow pointing to the ALT image description label. Behind that, there’s a joke or a punchline.

Brands including McDonald’s (ALT: “Extra pickles life”) and Red Bull Gaming (ALT: “Ice cold Red Bull”) have jumped on the trend.

Just a bit of light-hearted content to make their followers laugh, right?

Well, alt text, short for alternative text, is a description of an image used by blind or partially sighted people to help them navigate social media.

So if you’re visually impaired, this joke’s not for you. And that’s got people upset.

‘A meme for sighted people’

Connor Scott-Gardner is blind and says alt text is so important to him because so much content posted online relies on images.

“There are entire social media platforms like Instagram, which are image-based,” he says.

“And we share a lot of information through images, whether that’s text or through memes, whether we’re making a joke or just through culturally significant things.

“So for me alt text gives me access to all of that content, and it means that I’m able to have an equitable experience on the web.”

So Connor, 29, says that the “click here” meme left him feeling “excluded on a very fundamental level”.

“It actually took sighted people calling out the meme for blind people to even know what it was,” he tells BBC Newsbeat.

“It’s very much a meme that is created for sighted people.”

Connor and other users hit out at some brands who’d jumped on the meme. McDonald’s Canada actually replied with an apology and deleted their post.

It took another company, Specsavers, to turn the trend on its head.

In a tweet that’s been seen millions of times, the company posted its own version of the “click here” meme.

But it used the alt text to make a serious point instead of cracking a joke.

It wrote: “Alt text is a hugely important accessibility tool designed to help people navigate the internet more easily, so it shouldn’t be used as a punchline.

“This is especially true if the Alt text doesn’t describe the image, leaving blind and visually impaired people out of the joke.”

‘Inclusive content is good content’

Becky Brynolf, who’s the head of social media at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), agrees.

“Adding good alt text is such a quick win, I’m really surprised that more people don’t do it,” she says.

“Inclusive content is just good content. So you really shouldn’t be excluding anyone, especially not for a joke.

“If you wouldn’t take someone’s guide cane to show off how well you can twirl it about, you absolutely shouldn’t be misusing alt text for the sake of a joke.”

How to make your feeds more accessible

Becky says you can be really descriptive with your alt text, because you have 1,000 characters to play with.

“I’ve been really disappointed by all the tweets coming from the Met Gala, for example, that just say something like ‘Jeremy Strong attends the Met Gala’,” she says.

“But what is he wearing? What’s his facial expression? What’s the vibe like? Does he look happy to be there?

“Blind people want to hear about the fashion too. So don’t feel like people aren’t interested just because they can’t see the visuals.

“And just always think of accessibility as like a love note. Like it tells people we want you here as well.”

Connor says he’s especially annoyed that so many of the brands jumping on the bandwagon don’t use alt text in their other posts.

He says some have even posted things since without alt text.

“So it’s very clear that they have no interest in including blind people or giving us access to information,” he says.

“They’re only using that accessibility feature when it’s convenient to them and brings something to their sighted followers.”

Newsbeat contacted Twitter for a comment but it replied in the same way it does to all media, with a poo emoji.

No comments yet

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: