Instagram Accessibility: Making The ʼGram Usable for Everyone

Unlocking Social Media Access For Users With Disabilities

Social media platforms like Instagram have become an undeniable nucleus of modern connection. They serve as a space for social interaction, offering new and classic ways to convey self-expression and cultural awareness and engagement. Social media is also a source of news and information, particularly in regions where traditional media may be restricted. It's a valuable tool for business networking as well.


Web and digital accessibility refers to the design and development of websites, tools, and technologies that are accessible to all people, including those with disabilities. When online and digital websites, content, interfaces and platforms are accessible, everyone can observe and absorb, navigate the digital landscape, interact with the web, and play online, as well as create content. Effective accessibility removes barriers that might prevent interaction with, or access to websites and tools by people with a range of disabilities, from visual impairments to cognitive limitations.

Given the widespread use of social media, web and digital accessibility specifically for social media is a significant concern. People with disabilities deserve an equal opportunity to connect, share, and participate in the digital world. Instagram, like many other platforms, has taken steps toward inclusivity.

Instagram's Commitment to Accessibility

There is evidence to suggest that Instagram is making an effort toward inclusivity. Their website offers a dedicated accessibility page outlining features for users with visual impairments, hearing impairments, and cognitive disabilities. The Insta platform has implemented several key accessibility options that support its diverse user base.

Accessibility Features On Instagram

Some examples of basic accessibility features currently integrated into Instagram include:

  • Screen Reader Compatibility
    Instagram has improved its screen reader compatibility;it is now compatible with all common screen readers, allowing for blind or visually impaired Instagram users to navigate the app and understand content.
  • Text Alternatives for Images and Videos
    Instagram allows users to add alternative text descriptions to images and videos, which screen readers can then vocalize for users who cannot see the image, helping them understand the content.
  • High Contrast Modes
    These settings assist users with visual impairments by amplifying the color contrast of text and images on the Instagram interface.
  • Closed Captioning
    Users can add closed captions to video content, making it accessible to deaf or hearing-impaired users.
  • Auto Video Captions
    In addition to custom user-generated captions, automatically generated captions are available, making Instagram videos accessible for users who are Deaf or who have hearing loss, even when the content creator has not added in custom captions. However, these may be less accurate.

Accessibility: Room For Improvement

There are still areas where Instagram could improve accessibility. For instance, live content, which disappears after broadcast, currently lacks closed captions. Some users with cognitive disabilities may also find the fast-paced, image-heavy nature of Instagram overwhelming.

  • Simplified Interface
    A paired down interface with larger text and buttons could be beneficial for users with cognitive or motor skill challenges.
  • Content Moderation: Flashing Lights
    A content warning system for videos containing flashing lights could be helpful for users with photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Audio Descriptions For Videos
    This feature, which uses a separate audio track to describe what is happening in the video for those who cannot see it, is not currently available on the platform, but could significantly improve Instagram accessibility for visually impaired users.
  • Customizable Font Sizes
    While some device-level adjustments exist, Instagram itself does not offer a native option to adjust font sizes across the app, which can be a barrier for users with visual impairments.

Add-On Accessibility

Instagram also offers features that are not strictly categorized as accessibility features, but that can still be useful for users with disabilities. These include:

  • Text-to-Speech
    This feature allows users to have text on the screen read aloud, which can help people with visual or reading impairments.
  • Voiceover Integration
    Instagram supports voiceover functionalities that enable users to receive audio feedback on what they touch and select.

While there is still work to be done, Instagram has made strides toward creating a more inclusive platform. By continuing to invest in accessibility features, and by continuously updating and refining accessibility options, they can better serve their diverse global community, offering everyone equal access to the Instagram experience.

Instagram offers a range of features that can assist users with various disabilities. Here's how people with different disabilities can navigate Instagram:

Visual Impairments

Screen Readers

People with visual impairments can use screen readers compatible with Instagram to interpret on-screen text and navigate the application. They can utilize the screen reader’s voice commands to explore different sections of the app, such as scrolling through the home feed, or exploring pages and profile sections.

And, they can take advantage of Instagram's alternative text feature, with descriptions of images and videos posted on the platform. This text is read aloud by screen readers, offering a narrative of visual content.

Voice Control (Vision)

Instagram's compatibility with voice control features on some devices allows users with limited vision to give basic commands for actions such as opening the app, liking posts, and starting a direct message.

Limited Mobility & Pain Conditions

Voice Control (Mobility)

Voice control features can also be a good alternative for users who have difficulty using the touchscreen due to limited mobility or pain.

Larger Text

Instagram offers the option to increase the text size within the application, which can ease reading and navigation for users with limited dexterity or chronic pain in their hands.

Assistive Technologies

People with limited mobility or paralysis can utilize specialized devices such as adaptive keyboards, mouth sticks, or eye-tracking technology to navigate Instagram. These tools can help users perform actions that would typically require more dexterity.

General Tips

Explore Settings

Regardless of specific disability, it's important to explore all the accessibility settings that Instagram offers. These can be found within the app settings menu.

Set Up Shortcuts

Set up custom gestures or shortcuts on the screen reader to simplify navigation, reducing the number of actions needed to access common features.

By using a combination of assistive technologies and Instagram's built-in accessibility features, people with a variety of disabilities can navigate and enjoy the platform.

Creating Accessible Content For Instagram

As Instagram strives to become a more inclusive platform, content creators can participate in building accessibility by following inclusive methods, making their content more accessible to users with disabilities, and reaching a broader and more diverse audience. Here are five key practices for creating accessible Instagram content:

  1. Clear Fonts
    Use clear and easy-to-read fonts throughout your content, avoiding overly decorative or script-like fonts that can be difficult for screen readers to interpret, or for people with visual impairments to distinguish. And, limit emojis and emoticons, because they may not be read correctly, or at all, by individuals with disabilities.
  2. Color Contrast
    Pay attention to color contrast between text and background.  Sufficient contrast makes text easier to see for everyone, and is especially important for people with low vision or color blindness.
  3. Inclusive Language
    Strive to use inclusive language in your captions and content. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may not be understood by everyone.
  4. Alt Text Descriptions
    When uploading photos, provide clear and descriptive alternative text descriptions. This text is vocalized by screen readers for visually impaired Instagram users, giving them a better understanding of image content.
  5. Hashtag Responsibly
    Use relevant hashtags strategically, but avoid excessive use or cramming hashtags into captions. Screen readers announce each hashtag separately, so an overload can be disruptive for users who rely on this technology. Put hashtags in the first comment, not in the caption. And, make your hashtags easy to read by capitalizing the first letter of each word (e.g., #AccessibleInstagram). This practice, known as camel case, improves readability and assists screen reader technology in correctly pronouncing the hashtag.

Why Responsible Hashtag Use Matters

Hashtags are a valuable tool for discovery on Instagram. However, responsible hashtag use is important for accessibility. Screen readers announce each hashtag individually. A long string of hashtags can be  confusing and disrupt the flow of information for users who rely on screen readers. And, without proper formatting, a hashtag can be difficult to understand. For instance, a concatenated hashtag like #usinginstagramaccessibly can be confusing when read aloud. Instead, using camel case like #UsingInstagramAccessibly helps the screen reader distinguish and pronounce each word separately, making the hashtags more accessible to those who rely on these technologies.

By following these best practices, content creators can broaden their audience reach and get their message through to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Instagram's Accessibility: A User Review Analysis

A thorough review of real user feedback collected from various social media platforms including Instagram itself, Twitter/X, and Reddit paints a mixed picture of Instagram's accessibility. Here's a breakdown of some key accessibility features and their user feedback:

Alternative Text for Images and Videos

Users appreciate the alt text feature for its intent but note that the quality of auto-generated texts often lacks detail.

High Contrast Mode

This feature is generally well-received for aiding visibility, but some users with specific types of color blindness suggest improvements for better differentiation.

Screen Reader Compatibility

Feedback indicates that while Instagram has made strides, navigation can still be non-intuitive, requiring frequent updates to keep up with screen reader technology.

Voice Control Integration

Users with limited mobility praise the voice control for basic navigation; however, they report difficulties in executing more complex commands.

Video Captions

Automated captions are available, but users report accuracy issues, particularly with live videos or those with background noise.

WCAG Compliance Rating

It's difficult to assess complete WCAG compliance based on user reviews alone. However, some reviews mention minor to moderate interface navigation issues that could be improved for better WCAG compliance.

Overall Instagram Accessibility Rating

Considering the user feedback and the platform’s alignment with WCAG guidelines, Instagram shows a commitment to accessibility but still has significant room for improvement, especially in refining existing features for better usability.

These sources reflect a mix of positive remarks for the efforts made and constructive criticism where users face ongoing challenges, highlighting the dynamic nature of accessibility in digital platforms like Instagram.

It's important to note that user reviews can be subjective. A more comprehensive assessment would involve formal accessibility testing.

Recommendations To Improve Instagram Accessibility

While Instagram has made strides toward accessibility, there's room for improvement.

User-Driven Suggestions

Here are six recommendations based on an analysis of current user feedback on Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit:

  1. Simplify & Customize Interface
    User reviews suggest that a simplified interface with larger text and buttons would be beneficial for users with cognitive or motor skill challenges. Users would also like Instagram to offer more comprehensive options for users to customize their personal visual display settings within the app, including adjustable fonts, color schemes, and contrast settings that go beyond the device's default accessibility settings.
  2. Alt Text Quality & Process
    Invest in more sophisticated technology for automatically generating alt text to provide more accurate and detailed descriptions of images and videos. This would greatly aid users who rely on screen readers to engage with visual content. User reviews also highlight a need for a more streamlined process to make it easier for users and content creators to manually add these descriptions.
  3. Improve Caption Accuracy
    Improve the accuracy of automated video captions, especially in live videos or videos with background noise. Implementing better noise-canceling technology and advanced speech recognition could help address this issue.
  4. Flash Warnings
    Reviews mention a need for a content warning system for videos containing flashing lights, to assist users with photosensitive epilepsy.
  5. Better Alternate Navigation
    Improved navigation using the keyboard would benefit users who cannot use the touchscreen due to mobility limitations. Advanced voice control capabilities that allow for more nuanced commands would likewise facilitate easier navigation and interaction for users with limited mobility and those who rely solely on voice commands to use their devices.
  6. Ask Us: Users With Disabilities
    Users would like Instagram to conduct regular testing of new features and updates with a diverse group of users, including people with various types of disabilities. This will help prevent updates that inadvertently compromise usability. And, it will actively incorporate feedback from the disability community into design changes.

These recommendations are drawn from real-time, genuine user experiences and feedback from the disability community, highlighting areas where Instagram can improve its accessibility settings and features to better serve all of its users. By implementing these recommendations, Instagram can create a more inclusive platform that is accessible to a wider range of users, including those with disabilities.

Instagram Accessibility: Feedback & Support

There are a few ways to directly communicate accessibility concerns to Instagram. To report issues with accessibility on the platform,users can try reporting through:

  • In-App Feedback
    Instagram offers an in-app option to report issues. Navigate to your profile settings, tap “Help,” then “Report a Problem,” and choose “Accessibility” as the issue category.
  • Accessibility Feedback Form
    A dedicated accessibility feedback form can be found on the Instagram website. This form allows for more detailed descriptions of accessibility issues you encounter.

In-App Support: Finding Your Advocacy Community

Instagram doesn't have official dedicated forums for accessibility discussions. However, here are some first steps to help you find online forums and communities focused on accessibility advocacy:

  • Many disability rights organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind @nfb_voice, and other nonprofits like Disability:IN @disabilityin maintain Instagram accounts where you can connect with others and share your experiences. If you’re aware of a disability rights advocacy group or organization that’s either global or local to you, you can search for their organization’s name.

Within Instagram, multiple communities and groups focus on raising awareness and advocating for better accessibility. These groups often use the hashtag #a11y to tag their content, making it easier to find discussions related to accessibility on Instagram.

  • Look for classic accessibility advocacy hashtags like #a11y and #DisabilityInclusion to discover relevant communities, on Instagram, on other social media platforms, and on websites for user forums and reviews.

You can look for other notable hashtags and terms as well, like:

  • #AccessForAll: This tag is used when sharing resources and information on making social media more accessible, including tips, updates on accessibility features, and user stories.
  • #BarrierFree: This tag is often used by advocates for removing barriers on social media for people with disabilities. They share success stories, challenges, and call for action to improve digital spaces.

While social media, like most internet content, is fluid and changeable, certain terms remain popular, helping users find valuable support, advocacy, and community on Instagram.

Navigating The Rules: WCAG, ADA, & Instagram Accessibility

WCAG: Compliance Achieved

Instagram demonstrates some WCAG compliance in its accessibility features. Here are some examples:

  • Screen Reader Compatibility
    Instagram is compatible with common screen readers, which aligns with WCAG guidance on providing alternative ways to access content.
  • Closed Captions
    Closed captions for videos meet WCAG requirements for providing captions and audio descriptions for multimedia.
  • Text Alternatives
    Instagram follows WCAG guidelines by providing alternative text for images and videos, allowing content to be accessible to those using screen readers.
  • Consistent Navigation
    Instagram maintains consistent navigation mechanisms across its platform, as required by WCAG, which aids users in understanding and navigating the interface efficiently.

WCAG: Areas of Mixed or Non-Compliance

For these features, there are some barriers to access that shouldn’t be there:

  • Keyboard Accessibility
    The platform is navigable using a keyboard alone, which is overall in line with WCAG's requirement for operability without a mouse, assisting users with motor disabilities. However, limited keyboard navigation functionality may not fully comply with WCAG guidelines for keyboard accessibility.
  • Time-Based Media Alternatives
    Although Instagram has introduced automated captions for videos, it does not consistently provide audio descriptions for all video content. The lack of closed captions for live content falls short of WCAG recommendations for providing captions or transcripts for real-time audio content, and is a gap in meeting WCAG requirements for accessible time-based media.
  • Insufficient Contrast
    Some elements of the Instagram interface do not offer sufficient contrast ratios, especially in certain graphical components and overlays, failing to meet WCAG minimum contrast requirements for visual presentation.

ADA Compliance: How It Relates To WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are international recommendations published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to improve web accessibility for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a United States law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, setting regulations for equal rights of access for individuals with disabilities, which today includes digital accessibility.

  • The WCAG offers specific technical pointers for creating accessible web and digital content. It is a series of recommendations without legal force unless adopted by specific legislation or regulations.
  • The ADA is the legal framework that mandates and enforces those principles and practices within the US.

The WCAG provides detailed, technical criteria for accessibility. The ADA does not specify these standards; instead, it outlines the broader requirement of providing “reasonable accommodations” for accessibility.

While the ADA does not specifically mention WCAG in its original form, the United States courts and the U.S. Department of Justice have interpreted the intent of ADA law to imply that digital services should be accessible, often referring to WCAG as a standard for compliance.

Therefore, in the United States:

  • ADA compliance for digital accessibility typically follows WCAG guidelines because these are the internationally recognized best practices for web accessibility.
  • ADA cases regarding web accessibility frequently use WCAG compliance levels as a benchmark for what constitutes accessible digital content.

In the US, the ADA applies to public entities and businesses operating in the country. The ADA's interpretation regarding digital accessibility continues to develop through court rulings. Lawsuits against companies failing to provide equal access to digital content have been successful, prompting increased focus on accessibility.

As of April 24, 2024, based on public feedback to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Federal Register published a new rule from the U.S. Department of Justice, as an update to ADA regulations for Title II. This now specifically requires that United States state or local government agencies must ensure the accessibility of any and all web content and mobile applications that these agencies provide.

Global Accessibility Compliance Laws

Outside the U.S., the WCAG, though not legally binding, is widely recognized as a benchmark for web accessibility. Many countries and regions, including Canada, the European Union, and Australia, have adopted the WCAG or similar accessibility standards into their legal frameworks. These various laws and regulations around web and digital accessibility can apply to social media platforms operating within those jurisdictions.

  • Canada: The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) aims for the proactive identification, removal, and prevention of barriers to accessibility, including digital content.
  • Europe: The European Accessibility Act (EAA) requires that key products and services, including social media, be accessible, which aligns closely with the latest WCAG standards.
  • Australia: The Disability Discrimination Act mandates accessible public information and services, with enforceable standards that closely follow WCAG.

These statutes and others like them allow for government intervention and enable individuals who encounter digital barriers to seek redress through legal channels, creating a strong incentive for accessibility compliance.

These legal considerations undoubtedly influence Instagram's accessibility policies. The threat of lawsuits and the desire to operate in a global market likely motivate Instagram to prioritize accessibility features and strive towards WCAG compliance. By proactively assessing and addressing accessibility issues across the platform, and by aligning their policies with these legal requirements, Instagram not only improves the user experience for individuals with disabilities, it mitigates its legal risks by working to meet statutory obligations across different regions.

Instagram: Connecting Users, Opening Access

As the digital domain evolves, so too must the commitment to making digital spaces accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Social media platforms like Instagram have the potential to connect people from all walks of life.  However, inaccessible design can leave some users behind. By understanding the needs of users with disabilities and implementing best practices, platforms like Instagram can create a more inclusive online experience.

Fortunately, there are many steps Instagram can take to improve accessibility. Engagement from users, including valuable user feedback and community advocacy, is instrumental in guiding these improvements, helping move the changes in the right direction so that they meet the actual needs of those affected by accessibility barriers. Implementing improvements like streamlined alternative text descriptions, flash alerts, and better keyboard navigation can make a significant difference.

As accessibility continues to be a major legal and ethical concern, social media platforms that prioritize inclusive design are poised to thrive. Facing the future of digital inclusivity, platforms like Instagram that take accessibility seriously are most likely to remain at the forefront, modeling how social media can be a tool for empowerment and connection that transcends physical and sensory limitations.


What are Instagram accessibility settings designed to do?

Instagram accessibility settings aim to make the platform usable for individuals with various disabilities, including those who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have mobility issues.

Top 5 Accessibility