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cheri
cheri

Post-meeting walk in Bellingham. Frosty! ❄️

A wide gravel path winds through a birch wood on a clear winter day. bits of sunlight break through and stripe the path.

In reply to
arush
arush

@cheri Thanks for sharing these pictures, and thanks for including alternative text. It makes them so enjoyable.

cheri
cheri

@arush You’re very welcome! I’ve come to see a lack of alt-text as bad manners in a world where not everyone views photos in the same way. And it gives me a chance to work on my descriptive skills. ☺️

klandwehr
klandwehr

@cheri It looks like a lovely place to walk. I am feeling ignorant right now, but what is alt-text and what is it for?

cheri
cheri

@klandwehr I only learned about it last year, and it's very cool. Alt-text is when you type in a short description of your photo for people who are visually impaired, so they can "see" the photos too. Manton added a feature where you can tap on a photo after you upload it and add a brief description, to make it easy.

Without alt-text, a person with visual impairment might be reading a conversation about a photo, with no way of knowing what it is people are talking about. I imagine that's pretty frustrating, so now that I know about alt-text I take an extra 10 seconds and type in photo descriptions whenever the technology allows.

klandwehr
klandwehr

@cheri ok that is really cool, I will have to remember to use it the next time I upload a photo

herself
herself

@cheri oh man, is that how you add alt-text? I had no idea. It’s such a good thing to do. I’ve done a ton of accessibility testing and it’s amazing how a few basic steps can make a huge difference to people using screen readers. Yay.

cheri
cheri

@herself In the iOs app you can tap the photo after uploading, then there's a prompt to add the description. On the website I go back into the post and add the alt-text to the uploaded picture after hitting publish. (the alt-text marker is there, all you have to do is type the description between the quotation marks).

Miraz
Miraz

@cheri @klandwehr I'm afraid I'm going to be a pedant and say that's not what the role of alt text is. Alt stands for alternate and its job is to replace the image (on a web page). There's another thing called Description which takes the describing role. Here's an example from a web page: I include a photo of my dog. I might describe the dog in the alt text as that would replace the photo for someone who can't see the image. At the end of the page I have an image of an arrow to go to the next page. I don't describe that arrow, but instead the Alt text is next page. Some images, such as frilly borders, for example, would have no alt text as they're purely decorative.

arush
arush

@cheri I think if viewing it as bad manners helps you do it more, that's cool, but I like the reward-not-guilt approach to accessibility if it's possible. With all the Gutenberg drama last year we finally had to start resorting to guilt/punishment/anger instead of reward and I think that was the part that broke my heart about the whole thing the most.

cheri
cheri

@arush That’s a good point! I retract my statement about manners. 🙂

cheri
cheri

@Miraz Thanks! I didn’t know all that.

jw
jw

@Miraz couldn't you just say "next page arrow" then? Covers two bases! ☺️

Miraz
Miraz

@jw A considerate idea, but unless you have to distinguish the arrow from, say, an elephant, then no. It could even be detrimental. Many people find alt text useful, including those on slow Internet connections, but especially blind people who may be listening to the page. Unnecessary words add to the page's size (a million visitors all get that extra stuff so it adds up), add to the time taken to listen to or load a page and would get annoying very fast.

Miraz
Miraz

@cheri It’s so great to see people sharing this knowledge, but alt text is often misunderstood (when it's not being ignored) and I'm just a teacher at heart. It's also cool to end the alt text with a fullstop and space, for the benefit of those using screenreaders.

jw
jw

@Miraz Huh. I’ve never heard this take before; I'd love to read more about it, because I still don't follow how "next page arrow” doesn't tell you what the image is.

(btw, your tone here has come off kinda harsh/sarcastic, the elephant thing being one example)

jw
jw

@Miraz and it's certainly confusing. I think perhaps this writeup from MDN explains what you meant?

“Note that the contents of the alt attribute should always provide a direct representation of the image and what it conveys visually. Any personal knowledge or extra description shouldn't be included here, as it is not useful for people who have not come across the image before.

One thing to consider is whether your images have meaning inside your content, or whether they are purely for visual decoration, so have no meaning. If they are decorational, it is better to write an empty text as a value for alt attribute (see Empty alt attributes) or to just include them in the page as CSS background images.”

Miraz
Miraz

@jw I apologise that my tone has become ‘off’. That was definitely not my intention. ‘Elephant’ was clearly a poor choice of words on my part. The essential consideration is not to describe the image but to replace it. The two may converge sometimes, but at other times will be clearly distinct.

Miraz
Miraz

@jw Indeed, it does explain it. If an image has a function (eg next page) then alt text should state that function. If it has no function beyond looking pretty then alt text should be left blank. If it is an integral part of a page / blog post, eg I'm writing about my cute dog, then it may be appropriate to use descriptive alt text, along the lines of “small white dog chasing a ball with ears flying”.

arush
arush

@Miraz Just to get a little more pedantic and add some context, if an image is decorative, the alt attribute should be there, but left empty. In other words, alt equals "" I didn't express that in code because I'm not sure how MB will handle a code tag.

cheri
cheri

@arush @miraz I’m enjoying this conversation! Thanks for all the good information today. I’m inspired to research alt-text a bit more and to think about it in a broader context than just photo descriptions.

Miraz
Miraz

@arush Thanks for chiming in on this. My knowledge is only theoretical.

Miraz
Miraz

@cheri @arush Thanks. I was a bit worried after at least one person found my tone ‘off’ that I may have been unwelcome in my observations. It's definitely worth exploring and plenty of people have written excellent guidance.

jw
jw

@Miraz gotcha! and thank you!