We won’t be retweeting some job adverts. Here’s why.

More and more people are using images to get round character limits on Twitter, but some people are getting left behind.

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This has been overdue, but we’ll no longer be retweeting job adverts where job details are in an image and nowhere else. To demonstrate why this is a problem, I’ll explain in the image below.

If you're looking at this image, all you'll see is the message image dot jpeg. It's a png image. It's also an inversion of all those tweets where the job details are in the image without any alt text. They're difficult to respond to if you have poor eyesight. I don't think it's a deliberate tactic to dissuade disabled people from applying, but that might well be the result. Why haven't we done this sooner? Well, it used to seem to be about one per week, so there was the risk of it being taken as a personal attack whatever week I posted it, when it's a widespread problem. I thought it best to pick a neutral point like New Year. Now I'm seeing more job tweets without alt text than with, so I should have written this post sooner. Incidentally, I imagine we have our own issues here. If there is a problem, you're welcome to email me to let me know, and I'll try to fix it.
There is more to this image than might first appear.

That image explains what we’re not retweeting and why. Whether or not it’s clear to you depends on how you access this page.

The details are in the alt text. This is the text that accompanies the image. It’s visible if you browse the web with images disabled or use accessibility tools, like a screen reader. It’s one of those things that’s extremely easy to overlook if you’re just looking. It becomes a problem when there’s critical information in the image, and that is happening more often on Twitter.

Twitter has many problems, but one is that if you want to get across a lot of information, 240 characters is not a lot. But you can also attach an image. If you make that image a blank sheet with a lot of text, you can bypass that 240 character limit. But while accessibility tools can handle text, they’re not so good with images, so that image can be a blank space if you don’t have alt text. Sadly a lot of job adverts don’t have alt text. Some will have a link for further details, but sometimes that link will be to another problem like a PDF file. One advert I saw recently had a link to the lab’s homepage, but when you went to the ‘positions’ page, it was just the same image embedded in the page – with no alt text again. It’s a barrier to anyone using assistance for visual problems and it’s easily fixable with some alt text.

If your eyesight is good, then adding this kind of thing is a nuisance or at least a chore. But if you saw an advert that offered a job and then said ‘disabled people need not apply’, you’d probably think that the lab is one to avoid, and I don’t think it’s something that the people we follow would intentionally do.

Instead of nudging people after the event, we’ll make it clear before you advertise on Twitter. If you want us to retweet your advert, it has to have information available to those with visual difficulties.

Alun Salt

Alun (he/him) is the Producer for Botany One. It's his job to keep the server running. He's not a botanist, but started running into them on a regular basis while working on writing modules for an Interdisciplinary Science course and, later, helping teach mathematics to Biologists. His degrees are in archaeology and ancient history.

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