Greetings, Adventurer! The DOTS Guild welcomes you on your journey to learn, and we are happy to be of service. This missive provides information on how to make your material usable by those who will access it in different ways. Should you have further questions, contact our Guild Leaders for assistance!
As the internet is such a large part of our culture, we record all sorts of things on social media. The development of better cameras, graphics software, and other tools related to digital images means creating and distributing images is easier than ever. We post a wide range of images from selfies to information about content releases. Information may be conveyed through infographics and slideshows, but without alt text, this can leave people unable to access this information.
You may wonder what should have alt text attached? The answer is everything! Whether it’s a photograph, a piece of content you’ve created, a meme, or an image with words allowing you to circumvent a character limit. The use of an image on social media is broad, from individuals sharing what’s happening in their personal life to companies posting advertising or important updates. Without alt text, a visually impaired individual using a screen reader (SR) may simply read out the word ‘image’ but is unable to provide any further information. Occasionally it may guess at the content through use of AI and be able to identify basics, but this would be limited to descriptions like ‘person’ or ‘outdoor’ without any other detail. This can lead to people who use SRs to miss out on vital information, jokes, or even where to find your content.
Cherry-picking which images should have alt text is not correct. If most of your images don’t have alt text, there’s no reason for people using SRs to believe any will. The most mundane or complicated of images should have alt text, even if it takes a bit more work and time to apply it. Whether you are managing an account for a large company or posting on your own personal account, alt text should always be included. Failing to do so prevents the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are visually impaired from interacting with your content and understanding your message.
If you are sharing a press release, infographic, chart, diagram, or other image that contains a large amount of information that can’t easily be communicated via alt text, it is best to have a link in the text (also known as copy) of the post that has a text-based version of the content hosted on a website. If you are sharing a photograph, drawing, or other still image with lots of detail, think about what is important and why you are sharing that content. Focus on that information when considering what your alt text should be. If you are sharing an animated gif, some platforms allow you to add alt text. If your platform of choice does not, or you are sharing a video with no audio, a description can be posted in the main post copy or immediately after in a thread or comment.
When using the official app or website for any social media services, if they allow you to add alt text the option will be available through their posting area. Depending on the platform, alt text fields may be immediately available and suggested once you add an image, others may be buried in multiple levels of menus. If you are using a third-party social media scheduling and posting service, some may or may not allow access to adding alt text. If they do allow access, it is best to test it out before committing to using the service and view your post on the social media platform of choice to ensure the alt text was posted correctly along with your image. If they do not allow access, consider if this is the best option for you and your intended audience.
Writing alt text for an image-based post gives you an opportunity to think more about what your post is, what you want your audience to understand, and why it is important. The copy in your post may tell part of a story, but the image finishes it. If you wouldn’t share the post without an image, you shouldn’t share the image without alt text. When you get in the habit of writing alt text at the moment you select the image, maybe even before you write the rest of the post, it will help you create and share more thoughtful content.
This image was shared on our social media pages with the following alt text: a set of 7 translucent green RPG dice with tactile braille letters in place of written numbers. The dice are lit by the sun behind them, casting green shadows. They are lined up across a large flat rock with additional highly textured rock faces behind them.
The post copy was: What adventures have your #RPGdice taken you on in the world of #dnd and #ttrpg? Have you traversed a deadly mountainside, with your #d20 responsible for your character's life? Did your #dice send you to your doom or save the day? #BrailleDice #AccessibilityInTabletop.
Understanding the relationship between the post copy mentioning a deadly mountainside and the highly textured rock in the image dictated what should be written in the alt text. A sighted individual may have viewed the image and imagined the dice were like a single file line of adventurers walking along treacherous terrain, especially after reading the post copy. Describing that information in alt text so a visually impaired individual understands what is shown in the image helps them have the same experience of the imaginative setting intended by this post. Through the use of considerate alt text, we are able to connect with our entire audience, ensuring accessibility is never an issue.
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