Go to content

As we hurtle towards July 4th and the next general election, social media is awash with letters, statements, press releases, infographics and a myriad of messaging to either sway or dissuade the electorate into voting a particular way.

Montage of tweets from various political parties

Being a digital manager for a political party must be hectic and stressful right now. Time is tight and lots of messaging has to be put across in a very short time frame.

But if the point of all this frenetic activity is to communicate with voters, what happens when those voters can’t actually read your messages?

A quick look around the web shows us all political parties are guilty of not using alternative text (alt text) for images. Not providing an alternative text description excludes people with accessibility needs from reading social media posts. Let’s fix it!

Let’s look at three examples we’ve seen in the last week.

A tweet from The Labour Party that entices us with ‘These are @Keir_Starmer’s first steps for change.’ It sounds like we should know what these steps are if we’re going to vote for change on 4th July.

This image needs alt text to make it accessible for everyone. We’d write the following:

A black and white picture of Sir Keir Starmer wearing a shirt, tie and glasses, looking serious. The text reads My first steps for change: 1 deliver economic stability, 2 cut NHS waiting times, 3 launch a new Border Security Command, 4 set up Great British Energy, 5 crack down on anti-social behaviour, 6 recruit 6500 new teachers.

A tweet from the Conservatives with a clear plan for local priorities. But is it clear when there’s no alt text? Each photo in this gallery needs its own alt text. Given that the background images are largely hidden behind the embedded text, we have focused on the text shown in each image. So for the first image, we’d write:

30 more towns to benefit from levelling up.

A tweet from the Liberal Democrats has their plan to tackle the sewage crisis. But what is the plan? We’d alt text this one as follows:

Illustration of sewage spilling from a pipe into a river surrounded by green hills, and a sign warning against swimming. Text reads: Our plan to end the sewage scandal: Abolish and replace Ofwat. Ban bonuses for water bosses. Fine companies for dumping sewage.

Why is alt text important?

Alt text, or alternative text, is used to describe an image. It allows people who are visually impaired or blind to know what information is contained in the image. Without it, you are excluding up to 1 in 5 people from your important political messaging.

By overlooking this key accessibility component you are restricting access to information, creating barriers for people to make informed decisions about their vote, excluding people from conversations, and maybe even losing their vote along the way. Of course that is not the aim.

Facebook, Instagram, X and Linked In all have the option of adding alt text to images. Politicians must make this a non-negotiable requirement when briefing their social media managers about what and how to post.

Some resources to help you:

Every vote counts, but more importantly every voter counts. Speak to your digital teams, put alt text on your images and make your communications more accessible!