If you’re new to the idea of accessibility in web design, or if you’re looking to enhance your existing understanding of the subject, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has done fantastic work on guidelines through its Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
If you’re brand new to the topic, the WAI’s principles of accessibility can seem a bit intimidating. But dipping your toes into website accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated, and a super easy place to start is by adding alternative text (aka alt text) to your graphics.
Alt text is the description a screen reader will use when relaying the page to a user with a vision or reading disability. If you’ve ever had your car or cell phone read you that text you got while driving, you may have heard the sent emojis included as words. That’s alt text.
Don’t forget to pick up milk smile smile smile. I’m making cookies tada clap tada.
Depending on the photo software you use, you may be able to add alt text to your photos before uploading them. If that’s not an option, web content management systems generally make this pretty easy to find (often under edit in your photo catalog). If that doesn’t work for you either, or if you enjoy working directly with your HTML, it’s a simple alt attribute in your image tag.
<img src="dog.gif" alt="My Shetland sheepdog">
If you’re not quite ready to start editing your content for accessibility, but want to learn more, an excellent starting point is Brenda Barron’s article “How to Make Your Website Accessible to People with Disabilities.” She hits the basics and some good best practices, starting with an understanding of how disabled people access and interface with the internet. This can really help form a nice foundation to build on as you continue to explore this topic.
Once you know what you’re doing, incorporating accessibility from the conceptualization or design stage can become second nature. You don’t have to get to that level of understanding all at once, either. Building your understanding one attribute at a time can get you there just as surely.