By Emma Hudson, Content and Services Manager, Westchester Education UK & International
Making sure your content is accessible is more important than ever, especially as all content providers will be required to comply with the European Accessibility Act by 2025.
A key thing to consider will be alt-text and long descriptions – but what are they and why are they important?
Alt-text is a short text description, usually 2–3 sentences, of an image to explain that image to users with visual impairments. A screen reader is then used to read these descriptions out loud.
Your image could be a photo, artwork, a chart or graph. Alt-text can be created for all of these.
Long descriptions provide a more detailed description than alt-text, usually required if the image provides information not present in the accompanying text. It is a detailed text translation of the image. A key thing to remember when writing both alt-text and long descriptions is that you must not add bias or interpret the image in your way. It’s a case of only stating the facts.
There’s no restriction on the number of words a long description can be, and the user can navigate through it to find the next paragraph if they only want to hear a description of a particular element of your image.
Long descriptions provide a visually impaired user with a richer understanding of what is on the page and ensures that the user is able to access all the information offered to them and if the content is part of assessment they are given all the tools needed to answer the relevant questions.
You can enrich your long description with the use of lists and tables which really helps with data-led charts that would otherwise be long and overwhelming text descriptions.
What do content providers need to think about when creating alt-text and long descriptions?
It’s important for alt-text and long descriptions to be fully briefed so that you create valuable and precise descriptions.
Before getting started, you need to consider:
- Creating an alt-text style guide to ensure cohesive and consistent text.
- Whether you want only alt-text, or to also provide long descriptions.
- The level of description you want to provide: it is important to consider your audience.
Did you know?
- Not all punctuation can be read by screen readers.
- There are times when alt-text is not required.
- You can’t include lists and tables in alt-text, but you can in long descriptions.
What are the benefits?
- By including alt-text, your content is now accessible to your entire audience. No one is excluded.
- With long text, you convey all the information to all users. No one misses out on the value that the image provides.
- Detailed descriptions enhance the discoverability of your content.
How can we help you?
Westchester Publishing Services UK is a Benetech accredited company. We have a network of experts who can support you in creating accessible content, including writing succinct alt-text and long descriptions.
Contact us to find out more.