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Accessibility controversy: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces criticism for misusing alt text on Twitter

A scandal has been stoked as a result of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s incorrect usage of alt text on social media. This comes only a few weeks after prominent corporations were called out for similar infractions. A photo grid consisting of four individual pictures that together illustrate a cabinet meeting was uploaded to his official Twitter account. However, in the alt text fields—which are meant to give details for people who are visually impaired—it just says, “We’re growing the economy.”

The office of the Prime Minister, known as Number 10, has indicated that it works hard to make photos as easily available as they can be. On the other hand, this occurrence comes on the heels of the recent outrage that firms like McDonald’s have encountered for utilising alt text to hide humour in their “click here” meme. McDonald’s was criticised for doing this.

Accessibility features, such as alt text, enable screen readers to explain parts of a picture, such as the clothing worn by individuals, their surroundings, and any text that is displayed on the screen. In the instance of the tweet that came from Rishi Sunak’s account, clicking on the photographs causes them to enlarge and expose a list of achievements that the government claims it has achieved. Users of screen readers do not have access to this extra information since the alt text does not include it. This means that users of screen readers do not know what it contains.

The administration has been criticised for the fact that it did not offer detailed descriptions of the photographs. As a kind of protest, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) tweeted a video that provided a demonstration of how the visuals might sound to blind people who were using a screen reader. The movie included the words “we’re growing the economy” repeated four times.

After viewing the tweet, Becky Brynolf, who is in charge of social media at the RNIB, voiced her dissatisfaction with the organisation. She called equal access to information a vital human right that should be the duty of everyone and stressed how important it is to ensure that everyone has the same amount of access to information. Becky also brought out the irony of Rishi Sunak’s conduct by pointing out that the government had published recommendations in 2018 for public organisations to follow in order to make their websites and applications accessible.

Becky contends that it is acceptable to expect the communications teams of major public figures, such as the prime minister, to make their social media postings available, even though the advice did not specifically include social media. She cites the example of the prime minister as an example.

Number 10 issued a statement in response to the criticism in which they claimed to use a variety of techniques and channels to connect with the general public and that they strive to make their information accessible. They confirmed that they use alternate text across all of their social networks.

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