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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Accessibility and Twitter

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Twitter is the haiku of social networks. Unlike a Facebook post, which can be as long as it needs to be, Twitter messages, known as tweets, have a 140 character limit. Users must condense their thoughts into a compact posting. So why would you want to constrain your thoughts and use Twitter? On Twitter you can Follow any number of interesting people and organizations. On Facebook, you need to Friend other users in order to follow their posts. On Twitter you can follow anyone, and, unless you protect your account, anyone can follow you and benefit from the wit and wisdom of your pithy and informative Tweets. 

When you set up a Twitter account, you are presented with a list of suggested people you might wish to follow. Do you have a favorite comedian? He or she is likely using Twitter, and if you Follow him or her you may be rewarded with an occasional one-liner or rye observation. Are you a news junkie? Follow @CNN and keep up with headlines as they break, often long before you will hear about the same stories on air.

Other Twitter Features

Besides posting tweets and reading the tweets of others, you can also:

  • Reply to a tweet, or retweet a post so people who follow you can enjoy it. 
  • Tweet a link to a webpage or video you enjoyed, or open a link someone else has tweeted. 
  • Direct a public message to another user by adding the “@” character before his or her Twitter handle. For example, if you follow the Facebook Accessibility Team at @fbaccess, they will see the tweet “@fbaccess Excellent job on that new accessibility feature.”
  • If you are following someone and they are following you, you can send direct, private  messages back and forth that do not display to others.

Accessing Twitter

These days many people use their smartphones to access their Twitter feeds. Both the iOS and Android Twitter apps are quite accessible using VoiceOver or TalkBack respectively. Many Windows PC users enjoy the extra screen reader accessibility features provided by the third-party Chicken Nugget Twitter app, which interfaces directly with the Twitter feed. Night Owl is a popular third-party option for Mac VoiceOver users.

Recently, Twitter has been tightening their restrictions, and the future of these and other third-party solutions is a bit murky. Consequently, you may wish to begin your Twitter experience using one of the official Twitter mobile apps, or at the website.

Twitter Shortcut Keys

Like Facebook, the Twitter website uses a number of shortcut keys to help you access its various features. Below is a list of these shortcuts, but don’t worry about trying to memorize them.  If you access Twitter with a screen reader, the site will offer you the opportunity to review them.

Shortcut

Action

n

New tweet

f

Favorite

r

Reply

t

Retweet

m

Direct message

u

Mute user

b

Block user

Enter

Open tweet details

l

Close all open tweets

o

Expand photo

/

Search

Ctrl Enter

Send tweet

Many of these shortcut keys may conflict with your screen reader’s quick navigation commands.  Consequently, you will need to use your screen reader’s pass-through command, or turn off enhanced browser navigation (Forms Mode in JAWS, Focus Mode in NVDA, and Browser Mode in Window-Eyes). 

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