Making images and graphs accessible is something we can all do. Once you get into the habit it’s simple. The process is called “Alt -text” or alternative text. It provides a text alternative to documents, slide shows and web pages. The WebAIM blog site gives more detail about applying text to images. In short, it does three key things:
- It is read by screen readers so it’s accessible to people who are blind or have certain cognitive disabilities.
- On websites it is displayed in place of the image if the image file is not loaded or when the user has chosen not to view images.
- The text description can be read by search engines.
Even if you are not in charge of your organisation’s website, any pictures you provide for web content should have your description and not be left to someone else to interpret. They might get the picture out of context. The article explains more about context.
For specific information on Word and PowerPoint images, the University of Minnisota has some instructions. Twitter also has instructions on picture descriptions for tweets. Media Access Australia has information on this topic, as well as Captcha options.
From the Editor: I describe all pictures and images on this website. This is not the same as having a caption. Two tips: No need to start the description with “A picture of…” because the screen reader knows it is a picture or graphic and announces it. End the description with a full stop. It makes the screen reader use a tone that ends the sentence rather than sounding as if it is cut off in the middle. Also, avoid “download here” or “click here” and put the link in the actual text so the screen reader and user knows what it is referring to.