lightbulbs-blue Getting started with web accessibility

Build accessibility into your projects to ensure everyone can access it. Start with alt text.

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 developing 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 getting started with website accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated, and a super easy place to start is by adding alternative text ("alt text") to your graphics and other images.

Alt text is the description a screen reader will use when relaying the page to a user with a vision impairment or reading disability. If you’ve ever had your car or cell phone read a text to you while driving, you may have heard the emojis pronounced as words. That’s alt text at work.

Don’t forget to pick up milk smile smile smile. I’m making cookies tada clap tada.

Depending on the software you use, you may be able to add alt text to your photos before uploading them. 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, or if you enjoy working directly with the HTML code, it’s a simple alt attribute in your <img> tag.

<img src="dog.gif" alt="My Shetland sheepdog">

If you want to start editing your web content for accessibility, but aren’t sure how to go about it, an excellent starting point is Brenda Barron’s article How to Make Your Website Accessible to People with Disabilities. She covers the basics and provides some best practices, starting with an understanding of how disabled people access and interface with the Internet. This can really help form a 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.

This article is adapted from Diving Into the Web Accessibility Pool and is republished with permission from Shareen Mann.