Instagram Announces Key Updates for Visually Impaired Users

In January, Instagram announced expanding the availability of badges to more creators and provided updates about addressing potentially harmful content. Instagram’s pattern of inclusivity does not end here. Today, Instagram announces key updates for visually impaired users.

Instagram focused on the user while choosing surfaces for accessibility. They wanted to adopt a comprehensive approach rather than making a series of one-off adjustments to UI labels, which is how a lot of accessibility work is driven. Instagram took into account how all users, not only screen-reader users, use our app and prioritized surfaces that are used by everyone so that everyone benefits from more accessibility-conscious development. The feed, which is the initial surface customers contact with, was the appropriate location to start based on this approach.

Instagram focused on optimizing a couple of distinct areas in order to achieve this.

Instagram Announces Key Updates for Visually Impaired Users
Instagram

Labeling

Instagram made sure that the accessibility roles and labels on feed UI components were correct. Many labels and aggregated labels for feed articles were fixed, with the most important information at the top, such as the author, post type (e.g. picture, video), and post description. Getting this sequence right proved to be highly crucial and significant, as it allowed screen-reader users more freedom, allowing them to easily pass over a post they weren’t interested in, and to locate articles that were more interesting, all while maintaining our seamless navigation concept.

Grouping UI Elements

The most visible change was compressing the focus hierarchy to just include two parts for each post: media and post actions. By portraying each post as a single focusable element, these enhancements streamlined navigation and decreased swipe time between posts from minutes to seconds. 

Instagram lowered the number of swipes required to navigate through a post from 30 to only 2. This was done by arranging emphasis pieces more strategically. This was critical to fulfilling our objective of providing screen-reader users with the same speedy exploration and discovery experience as those who utilize visual interfaces.

Controls for the User

The UI element grouping made skimming the feed faster, but it also took away the attention from all post activities. To address this and provide a better experience for screen reader users, Instagram consolidated all main post actions (Like, Comment, Send Post, and Save) into a single bottom sheet that can be accessed via custom actions on iOS (a feature that VoiceOver screen reader users are familiar with) or a separate button between feed posts on Android. 

By double-tapping on the media object, while the screen-reader is engaged, users may simply revert to the prior, familiar experience of engaging with each of the various UI components on a post if they choose. This redirects the user to a new screen with a single post and all UI elements focusable once again.

Other Instagram features still need improvement, but the team is enthusiastic to keep increasing accessibility and creating new experiences that make all users feel welcome.

Instagram announces key updates for visually impaired users on 1 February 2022.

Implications for Marketers:

Instagram’s new update allows marketers to expand the reach of their products to visually impaired users. These users, in particular, will have access to new items and markets and be able to explore something new.

Reference: https://about.instagram.com/blog/engineering/crafting-an-accessible-instagram-feed

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