The Importance of Alt Text for Screen Reader Users: A Guide to Best Practices and Accessibility by Virtual Tech Advisor and Research Assistant Casey Mathews #Accessibility #AssistiveTechnology #PrintDisabled #Writing

The Importance of Alt Text for Screen Reader Users: A Guide to Best Practices and Accessibility by Virtual Tech Advisor and Research Assistant Casey Mathews #Accessibility #AssistiveTechnology #PrintDisabled #Writing

Earlier last month, I was approached by a fellow author with the question, “How can I educate the authors I work with concerning accessible tech and how to make their writing available for readers who are blind, visually impaired, or who have some other print disability?”

After giving this some thought, I decided the first course of action would be to explain just what accessible tech is.

If you missed that introduction, please read:

The Print Barrier by author and multimedia specialist Ann Chiappetta #Accessibility #AssistiveTechnology

Once you’ve done that, I invite you to read this informative post by Casey Mathews of Web Friendly Help.

The Importance of Alt Text for Screen Reader Users: A Guide to Best Practices and Accessibility

Introduction

In the digital age, creating accessible content is more important than ever. One critical aspect of web accessibility is the use of alt text for images, which ensures that screen reader users can access and understand visual content. This blog post will explore the importance of alt text, discuss best practices based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and provide instructions on how to add alt text using both the mouse and keyboard in popular applications.

The Importance of Alt Text

Alternative text, or “alt text,” is a brief description of an image that is provided as an attribute within an HTML image tag on a website. It is essential for several reasons:

1. Accessibility: Screen readers rely on alt text to convey the meaning and purpose of images to users who are visually impaired or blind. Without alt text, these users miss out on essential information.

2. SEO: Search engines use alt text to understand the context and content of images, which can improve a website’s ranking in search results.

3. Usability: In cases where images fail to load or are blocked, alt text ensures that users can still understand the content.

Alt Text Guidelines for Descriptions

According to WCAG guidelines, good alt text should be:

1. Accurate: Provide an accurate description of the image’s content and function.

2. Concise: Keep the description brief, usually under 125 characters.

3. Contextual: Consider the context in which the image appears and tailor the alt text accordingly.

Examples

Example 1:

Image: A woman in a wheelchair waving at the camera.

Bad Alt Text: “Woman”

Good Alt Text: “Woman in a wheelchair smiling and waving at the camera”

Example 2:

Image: A pie chart showing the percentage of renewable energy sources used in a country.

Bad Alt Text: “Pie chart”

Good Alt Text: “Pie chart illustrating the proportion of renewable energy sources, with solar energy being the highest at 40%”

Example 3:

Image: A landscape photo of a mountain range.

Bad Alt Text: “Mountains”

Good Alt Text: “Scenic landscape of the Rocky Mountains with a blue sky and a forest in the foreground”

Adding Alt Text in some Popular Applications

Now, let’s look at adding alt text using the mouse and keyboard in popular applications:

Microsoft Word:

Mouse:

1. Right-click on the image.

2. Select “Edit Alt Text” from the context menu.

3. Enter a descriptive alt text in the Alt Text pane.

4. Close the pane by clicking the “Close (X)” button.

Keyboard:

1. move to the image and select it with CTRL+Shift+Left or Right arrow keys.

2. Press the “Alt” key along with the “F10” key.

3. Type a descriptive alt text in the Alt Text pane.

4. Close the pane by pressing the “Escape” key.

Google Docs:

Mouse:

1. Click on the image to select it.

2. Right click the image then click on, “Alt text Ctrl+Alt+Y”

3. Enter a title and description for the image in the corresponding fields.

4. Click “OK” to save the alt text.

Keyboard

  1. Navigate to the image
  2. Press “Ctrl” + “Alt” + “Y” (Windows) or “Cmd” + “Option” + “Y” (Mac) to open the Alt Text dialog box.
  3. Type a title and description for the image in the corresponding fields.
  4. Press “Enter” or “Return” to save the alt text.

WordPress:

Mouse:

1. Click on the image within the post or page editor.

2. In the right sidebar, locate the “Alt Text” field under the “Image settings” section.

3. Enter a descriptive alt text.

4. Click “Update” to save changes to the post or page.

Keyboard:

1. Navigate to the image within the post or page editor using the “Tab” key.

2. Press Alt+Shift+M.

3. Use the “Tab” key to navigate to the “Alt Text” field in the right sidebar.

4. Type a descriptive alt text.

5. Press “Escape” to deselect the image and return to the main editor area.

6. Tab to the Update button to save the post or page.

Conclusion

Alt text is crucial for ensuring that screen reader users have equal access to the information and context provided by images on websites and documents. By following the best practices based on the WCAG and W3C guidelines, you can create more inclusive and accessible content for all users, regardless of their visual abilities.

Remember to keep your alt text accurate, concise, and contextual to provide the most helpful information for screen reader users. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the mouse and keyboard shortcuts for adding alt text in popular applications like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and WordPress to streamline your workflow and ensure your images are always accessible.

By prioritizing web accessibility, you not only improve the user experience for those with disabilities but also contribute to a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape.

Casey Mathews is the founder of WebFriendlyHelp.com, a company designed to help people get the most out of their technology. He has worked in the Access Technology field since the mid 1990’s. He holds an MCP certification (Microsoft Certified Professional) as well as a BS in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix. He has also received the Florida division of Blind Services Access Technology endorsement. Casey has worked in various Florida Organizations that serve the blindness/low-vision community where he has introduced new software and training/support ideas from Serotek, the NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) screen reader, and of course apple iDevices. Casey was also instrumental in the founding of a Guide Dogs for the Blind technology chapter in 2011. Casey enjoys testing new technology and software and is highly committed to remaining informed of developments in technology.

SERVICE OVERVIEW…

The idea behind my personalized access technology solution is that people have different needs and learning styles. Some want to learn as much as possible so they can be ready for anything. If that’s you, great! However, just as important is the next person who may simply want the minimum to get the job done, then call later when something else crops up. We all have different limits, and sometimes less is more. Some learn by example, some learn better by taking a few pointers and trying to figure things out for themselves, and some just want it fixed so they can go on about their day. You may be:

A student who  is working on that all-important paper. Do you struggle with research, reading books, or those dreaded citations? Been there, done that!

A business professional whose company has suddenly made changes or updates that are driving you insane. Maybe you’re even more ambitious and want to build a website, or take a website from good to great in class. How does your name in a dot com sound?

A retired lifelong learner or hobbyist who wants technology to just work the way it should. On the other hand, you may need help with online resources to feed your hobby. If only I had a dime for every time I heard, “I had no idea that was available online!”

None of these? Have no fear. I specialize in makin’ your tech life easy, no matter what that entails. I think outside the box and color outside the lines. I will tame your tech for you!

Hand-Tossed VA Services

Do you ever find yourself needing something, but just don’t have the time or expertise to locate it on your own? First off, I’ve been there, and I know exactly how you feel. Second, don’t blame yourself. Google, Bing, or whichever search engine you like, can only take you so far without calling in an expert.

That is where I come in. I’m Casey. You can think of me as your personal virtual assistant. Let me help you bring back those lost hours in your day. As we work together, and I learn your stile, I will give you hand-tossed results that fit your tastes precisely. 🍕

Gifts

We all need a gift sometimes. Some people hate the idea of getting a gift, simply because it is hard to find that incredible gift that says, “I was thinking of you.” You may not want to get someone a gift certificate, flowers, cookies, or chocolates. Well, maybe you do if those items are over the top and tremendously unique. Need a special toy for your cat, dog, or fire breathing dragon? Say no more. So, let me know what you need and who you need it for. Boss, coworker, spouse, cat or dog, I got ya covered! Give me as much detail as you can, and I’ll get to work. If I need some clarification, I may reach out to you.

People

Did you lose contact with someone? Are you trying to locate a newly discovered relative you haven’t met yet? A long-lost friend or significant other? I can help. The more info you can give me ahead of time the better—first and last name for starters, along with an email address or phone number if you know it. Let me know if you need just address info, or more detailed stats like marital status, criminal background, or something else. Give me as much as you can, and I’ll start tracking them down for you.

College/Business

Find yourself needing to crank out three research papers with at least ten references for each one? I feel your pain! Been there, ate the pizza and got the t-shirt. 😉 Do you need to find information on a competitor? If the info you need is in a book, magazine, or journal article, I have access. While I cannot give you the entire book or professional magazine, I can share excerpts from those sources. Let me know how much information you need, and I will start collecting and collating for you! Formatting those documents can also be done for you. Whether it’s APA, MLA, or something else, just write, and let me make your citations and references right.

Are you a Writer?

Do you find yourself with too much to do and not enough time? Maybe you love writing but hate the research. If you need facts or data for your next best seller, I will give it to you in a silver document, if that’s your pleasure. 😉 Need to divide up your paragraphs into chapters? What about a nice table of contents? Just let me know.

Traveling Soon?

Looking to travel for business or pleasure? Looking to find a flight, hotel, or something else away from home? Maybe you want info near your destination such as things to do, nearby places to eat, or something else. I’ll hook you up with ideas and comments from people who have already done it. This way you can take the hassle out of travel!

Technology

Need a solar charger that does more than just charge? Overwhelmed by all the computer and smart device options out there? Let me help you find just the right device to meet your needs, deals that fit your budget, and the exact tech configuration that fits your life. I’ll do the hard work so you can relax and enjoy it. Once you get that new computer or device in your home/office, you can give my other service a try and let me tame your tech. I can help you configure your device or access technology, or show you how to use it better. Go to the above link to learn more.

Miscellaneous

Here I will briefly list some additional examples that might be of interest.

• APIs: If you are a developer, you know what these are. I do not code, but I can find what you need to code faster!

• Web Scraping: Need contacts from an organization or company? I will hunt them down for you.

• WordPress: This is extremely popular with a lot of small businesses. Many of my clients need help with their WordPress website, updating plugins, themes, or just making the site work in a way that it doesn’t now. I will help you make it run the way that works for you and your business.

• Data Import: Need information put into a new database system? You’ll have it up in two wags of a dog’s tale! 🐕‍🦺

AUDIO EDITING SERVICE

Your audio: enhanced, cleaned, and refined to the best quality possible

AT Web Friendly Help, audio editing involves modifying and removing the pieces of the audio recording that you don’t want or need. Whenever you record, you will have dead air or gaps in audio that are too long, coughs, ums, background noises, and so on. These can be removed for you. The result is that recordings will sound much more professional and confident.

Audio Restoration and Enhancement

The following partial list will help show you what you get with the audio subscription service.

• remove gaps, mistakes, unwanted sound, words, or parts

• edit out ums, ahs, silences, stumbles, coughs

• get rid of humming or buzzing noise, background noise (General audio restoration)

• add music to your voice over or any kind of audio

• enhance the sound of your audio file (Including podcast cleanup and enrichment)

• convert audio files to your preferred format

• Create audio files from your videos

Example Audio Projects

• Podcasts

• Audio interviews

• Audio lectures

• Teleseminars

• Radio shows

• Webinars

• Sermon recordings

• Presentations

I hope that brief list gives you a bit more of an idea of what I can do to help you. Let me know what you need when we chat.

Pricing…

Payment can be made via PayPal, or credit/debit card. Payments are made on a subscription basis such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Contact Info

Contact me by phone at:  567-234-0078 or email at: Help@WebFriendlyHelp.com

Visit my website: https://webfriendlyhelp.com

6 Comments

  1. If you use the WordPress block editor, you can easily insert alt text when adding images from your media library by navigating to the alt text field and typing or pasting your description there.

    1. Thanks Abbie.
      I appreciate the info.

  2. Robbie Cheadle Reply
    April 3, 2023

    Hi Patty, I didn’t find an alt text tab and the one I found inserted the text over the picture. I shall have to Google it as it might be my WordPress settings.

    Thanks for this useful and informative post. Sharing.

    1. Hi Robbie, email Dawn and Colleen of Two Pentacles Publishing at TwoPentacles.com
      Also, see Abbie’s comment on this post. She had something to say about the placing of alt text while using the WordPress site, however, Abbie and most of those I work with do not use the block editor.
      Two Pentacles can assist you though. They do all my work.
      Mostly though, I put the pics with alt text straight into my documents there-for all I have to do is put them straight into my text and the rest is done.

  3. Excellent blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed
    in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Hi, thanks for reading the blog.
      Check out the communities here.
      https://www.acb.org/

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