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Ensuring Accessibility: A Friendly Reminder on Alt Text Best Practices
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Ensuring Accessibility: A Friendly Reminder on Alt Text Best Practices

A happy cartoon monkey is hanging from a vine. The text reads: “Filename: mky4653.jpg”, “Alt Tag is: mky4653.jpg”, “Alt Tag should be: Happy cartoon monkey hanging from a vine”

What is Alt Text?

Today, let's dive into a topic that might sound a bit techy but is crucial for making our online spaces welcoming to everyone – Alt Text. So, grab a cuppa, settle in, and let's chat about why filenames shouldn't moonlight as Alt Text.

Firstly, Alt Text is like a friendly tour guide for images on websites. It provides a description, making it possible for our friends using screen readers to grasp the essence of what's happening in a picture. It's pretty nifty and, as we'll soon discover, incredibly easy to get right.

How do Filenames get used?

Now, on to a little quirk that often pops up during my website accessibility audits – the use of filenames as Alt Text. We all know how automated tools love to give us a thumbs up for merely having Alt Text present, but here's the catch: they don't really care what that Alt Text says and that's where the hiccup occurs.

Picture this: You've got a delightful image on your website – say, a happy cartoon monkey swinging from a vine. Now, you're excited to share this visual joy, but when you upload it, the platform, in its eagerness, grabs the filename and slaps it on as Alt Text. Result? Something like "mky4653.jpg" ends up as the description. Not very helpful, right?

Sure, it might slip through a quick automated check, but here's the thing – it falls short of the Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For someone relying on a screen reader, "mky4653.jpg" might as well be alphabet soup. They won't get a clue about the cheery monkey doing acrobatics.

So, what's the friendly nudge here? Take a moment to craft Alt Text that paints a vivid picture. Describe the essence of the image – in our case, "Happy cartoon monkey hanging from a vine." It's a small effort that pays huge dividends in inclusivity.

Why should you do it?

Now, you might be wondering, "Why bother?" Well, think of it this way – Alt Text isn't just a box to tick for compliance; it's a signal. When you put in that extra bit of care to create meaningful Alt Text, you're telling our visually impaired friends, "Hey, we thought of you." It's a simple yet powerful gesture that fosters a more inclusive online environment.

So, the next time you're uploading an image, resist the temptation to let the filename do double duty as Alt Text. Instead, share the story within the image through thoughtful, descriptive Alt Text. It won't take much of your time, but it'll make a world of difference to someone navigating the web without the luxury of sight.

In the grand scheme of things, a little consideration goes a long way. Let's make the online world a brighter, more inclusive space, one Alt Text at a time! Cheers to creating a web that welcomes everyone with open arms.

Caption: A happy cartoon monkey is hanging from a vine. The text reads: “Filename: mky4653.jpg”, “Alt Tag is: mky4653.jpg”, “Alt Tag should be: Happy cartoon monkey hanging from a vine”

Would you like to find out more?

Clive Loseby
Access by Design / Access by Audit
WCAG Compliant, Accessible Websites, Beautifully Designed
Always Delivering an Outstanding WCAG 2.2 Website Accessibility Audit