Completeness in Compliance – Alt Image Tags
Lately, there’s been an abundance of sites which we’ve reviewed that continue to have this issue so I wanted to dedicate our first June post to why simple concepts like this one can have a major impact on the disabled.
During my time in programming, development, and compliance, I’ve reviewed thousands of sites where most of the content was coded correctly. Compliance items in many cases were being met in nearly every area. However, there may be a special coupon or offer that is running, and too often these new specials do not have an “alternative image” tag or alt image tag. And that means that screen readers can’t parse the images and communicate those offers to all users. In short, anyone that is blind or sight impaired would not be able to view the ad, thus eliminating them from the pool of candidates that can view and use the offer. This means the site is discriminating against those users.
Making your sites accessible is no small task, but it is also important to remember that accessibility does not affect a small subset of the population. While we can easily get caught in the trap of assuming that the audience for these regulations is limited, the fact is that a large and growing number of users can benefit from making sites like yours fully compliant.
The combination of colors, layout, and the ability to resize or enlarge the screen are all important pieces of accessibility. We don’t tend to think of those with poor eyesight as being impacted, but they are. For example, many baby boomers are impacted by these factors, and skipping them leaves a large portion of the population unable to make the most of your site. I work with people today who are older and need special glasses just to read a page. Skipping guidelines makes it even harder for them.
Other segments that we typically don’t think of include those who have some level of hearing impairment. Imagine viewing an instructional video with the sound off; individuals who may be deaf or have hearing impairments are forced to watch all videos in this fashion, which is why the guidelines call for including a written transcript or captions on the videos. Unfortunately many sites skip this step in their content development and this is just basic programming.
Still people who benefit from ADA compliance include those affected by M.S. and similar disabilities. Imagine completing simple paperwork online—a bank loan form, for instance—but the specific fields are not labeled and required fields are not notated. For most people, this would seem to be a minor annoyance. But for anyone who benefits from site compliance measures, including those utilizing assistive technology like a mouth stick, the process could not only take longer but could result in missed fields, incomplete forms, and having to start the entire process over again.
Even those with arthritis may need special pointing devices, such as a camera mouse, head-tracking mouse, or eye gaze system. As technology provides the disabled with tools to help them better navigate the world and the internet, it is up to us to ensure that our sites are compatible with these tools and comply with the ADA guidelines. By doing so we can make sure we offer the best possible experience for anyone and everyone who accesses the internet.