1.1 Text alternatives


The first section of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, deals with how information is presented so that all users can perceive it. Just because you or I perceive information visually, that doesn't mean that all users are able to do so. And just because you or I perceive information by listening, that doesn't that all users are able to do so. 

Let's start then with the very first guideline:

Alternative text

1.1 Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

Text can be read, either by the user or by a screen reader, but non-text needs a bit of thought.

What is non-text content?

It is exactly what it says, anything that isn't text. That could even include a photo or screenshot of text. Anything that a screen reader can't read is a non-text item. It could be a picture, a diagram, icon, charts, graphs... anything that you would have to see to access it. 

A good awareness activity is to become more conscious of what you are accessing online. When you go on Facebook, read the news, receive email, go on a Zoom call... take note of non-text items. Make yourself notice them. Ask yourself some questions about them:
  • Are they just decorative or do they communicate information?
  • If you couldn't see it, would you miss out?
  • If you had to describe it to someone who couldn't see, what would you say?
  • Is there a reason why an image was used instead of text? Could a better image have been used?

How to add alt text

There are so many applications and online platforms that it would be difficult to cover all of them here. For now, here's a very short video that shows you how to do it in Microsoft Word. It's one I made as part of a series earlier in the year, hence the reference to 'day 17'. Actually, most word processing and presentation software is very similar, so you probably right click on the image and select Alt Text or Edit Alt Text and then type your description in a box. 

In my next post, I hope to show how to add Alt Text on different social media posts, and show the difference between what a screen reader does with a compliant image and a non-compliant image. For now though, If you post a picture, you could always do what comedian Sarah Millican does and just add a photo description to your post. Seriously, hers are brilliant! Have a look!


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