ALT Tags without Tears?
I've been talking a lot about accessibility recently, but the one thing I have utterly failed to convey is that it's not as scary as it sounds. Sometime it can be relatively painless if you just know the right trick.
So I am going to switch up strategies and talk about some tips and tools I have found that make my accessification task easier. The first up is the infamous ALT Tag for images
ALT Tags "Reconceptualized"
The term ALT tag implies a scary HTML tag, but maybe it's better to think of it as a caption to use if it doesn't download. That is, if a user can't access the image (i.e. it doesn't download correctly or it's not visible), then the browser reads an alternate description.
Depending on your connection, I think we've all experienced a missing image for button or link, so wouldn't it be nice to know what it's supposed to be? Voilà the ALT Tag
How to do it
You can insert an image ALT tag in many tools, even if you don't know any HTML, usually by just filling out a description field in the image upload process. See the links below for inserting ALT tags in different tools:
- ANGEL (Alternative Text Field)
- Blogs (Name field)
- Dreamweaver (Alt Tag field or Properties Window)
- PowerPoint/Word (Right Click to access image properties)
- Flickr - File Name becomes ALT tag and you can add a description. This is not ideal.
I admit that if your course (or Web site) uses hundreds of images, then it will be a chore to tag them all at once. So...I don't usually tag them all at once. Instead, I try to tag them in small batches as the course is being developed.
Two strategies I have used:
1. If I am working on a Web site, then I tag each image as I create each page. I actually use Dreamweaver a lot even if the content will end up somewhere else (e.g. ANGEL, Drupal). Because the Dreamweaver ALT tag option is basically a form field in the Properties window (or the initial pop I get when I insert the image), I really don't have to touch the code that much (other to batch change the URL).
2. If you are working in Word first but converting to the Web later, it may make sense to just type in an ALT tag below the image as you insert it. When it comes time for the content to migrate, then the ALT tag will be there to be cut and pasted.
I've been using this process for the last 5 years now, so I can say that most images are used have some sort of ALT tag, and I don't spend too much time...unless I forget to tag as I add.
I know there are times when people are batch loading images to a site (e.g. some photo sharing sites) where it is very difficult to add an ALT tag. But I really think that should be the minority case since images are often collected and processed over the course of a period of weeks. Maybe I'm missing something though. That's why I have a comments section.