Web accessibility is gaining momentum. However, significant portions of the population are still unable to access the Internet given the lack of accessibility implementation in digital solutions.
Organizations are herein looking for a holistic approach to ensure the application’s readiness for responsive web accessibility, both from compliance and end user standpoints.
Of the varied parameters that are critical to achieve web accessibility, Alt-Text is an important one that is often a low hanging fruit, which if addressed well, goes a long way in the improving access to one and all, especially the visually disabled.
What is alt text and where it is used?
Alt-text, in simple terms, is an alternative text, that is part of the HTML code, to explain the appearance and function of a given image on a page. It is mainly used in the following scenarios:
When an image file cannot be loaded
To give a context for images improving searchability for crawlers, enabling proper indexing
To enable access of photos/images/pictures, for the differently abled, especially the visually impaired end-users, allowing them to understand and visualize them, when screen readers read out the alternative text
For example, when you look at the HTML code of the below image, the alt tag represents the alt text, which clears helps anyone understand the image without having to see the same.
<img src=”pancakes.png” alt=”Stack of blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar”>
Embracing Alt Text:
If alt-text is so straightforward to implement and the benefits are huge, why isn’t it adopted in all digital solutions. The reasons are quite straightforward that organizations should work towards in making this a core engineering requirement:
1. Often engineering teams are not sensitized towards alt-text; the lack of awareness if one of the main reasons for non-adoption
2. The alt-text may not always be easy to provide. The actual content should be correct both from the image and its contextual use standpoints. For example, instead of a pancake, if the alt-text was included as “cake”, it is a no brainer that it is incorrect. Sometimes though, the content may be correct from the image standpoint but may fail from a context standpoint. This is where manual and automated checks to ensure alt-text relevance is important, and we at QA InfoTech are leveraging technologies such as AI and ML for reliable automated solutions
3. The fear that accessibility takes time to implement or that re-engineering is not easy. Both these are myths which again takes us back to point #1 on sensitizing teams on the need for and the implementation aspects of accessibility. Herein, we have been training several organizations on accessibility testing and engineering, enabling them on the path to global access.
Alt-text when understood well and implemented with buy in from all stakeholders, goes a long way in boosting an application’s accessibility maturity. Imagine the number of images in an application that can now be well understood by the visually disabled, improving user experiences manifold.