Mastodon and Fediverse Accessibility Tips

How do I use Mastodon through a screen reader?

Mastodon can be used through screen reader software that converts the text into audio. Here are a couple of useful guides, both written by blind Mastodon users:

If you want to read a very long thread with dozens of posts, you may also find it useful to use the Thread Unroller bot ⧉ which combines them into one continuous piece of text, including captions for any images.

How do I make posts more accessible to blind people?

There are a lot of blind users on Masto and the Fedi who use screen readers to convert text into audio. There are five easy things non-blind people can do to help screen readers make a lot more sense of what they’ve posted:

  • When posting an image or video, click on the “edit” or “caption” button (or write directly on top of the image on some apps) and then add a text description of what is visible. Read it to yourself afterwards, and see if you are able to imagine the important parts of the picture from what you have written. When you’ve finished, remember to click the “Apply” button if if necessary.
  • When posting hashtags, use CamelCase (where each word begins with a capital letter), for example #DogsOfMastodon instead of #dogsofmastodon. The capital letters allow screen reader apps to separate the words correctly and read the hashtag out loud properly.
  • Don’t do that “sarcastic text” thing where you make fun of someone by having random letters as capitals, because random capitals prevent a screen reader from working properly.
  • If you’re sighted and you see the hashtag #Alt4Me underneath an image post, it means a blind person wants you to write a description of the image. Reply to the post with the tag and give them the description.
  • Also, if you’re a sighted person and you see a remarkable image that doesn’t have a descrption and no one has requested one yet, be pro-active and reply with a description using the tag #Alt4You which will let blind people find your description more easily.

Note that sometimes an image may have no description but there is an #Alt4Me tag added to it by the poster. It may be that the poster is unable to add a description (for example due to having a disability themselves), but is aware that one is needed so they have pre-emptively added the tag.

How do I make posts more accessible to deaf people?

If you’re posting a video or audio clip, remember to add descriptions of the sounds too. Video clips often have text descriptions of the visuals for blind people, but many forget to describe the audio for deaf people too.

How do I remember to add text descriptions?

If you’re not used to adding text descriptions, it’s unfortunately quite easy to forget. However, help is available! If you follow the Please Caption bot at ⧉, it will automatically tell you if you’ve forgotten to add a text description.

Text descriptions are expected on the Fediverse, it’s seen as good manners to be considerate of screen reader users. By the time you’ve been doing it for a while, it becomes second nature.

How do I add a text description through Mastodon’s edit feature? I forgot, and edit won’t let me add it afterwards!

There’s a bug in Mastodon’s edit system which doesn’t allow you to directly add a text description. The developers are aware and a fix is being worked on ⧉.

However, there is a workaround which does let you add descriptions through editing:

  1. Edit the post
  2. Delete the image
  3. Re-upload the same image
  4. Add the text description
  5. Save changes to the post

How can Mastodon server administrators automatically remind their users to add text descriptions?

If you run a Mastodon server, you can add a special chunk of custom CSS to your server by going to Preferences > Administration > Site Settings > Custom CSS and then adding the code from here ⧉.

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