What should be in an Alt tag?  

on November 9, 2023 at 10:13am |Updated on January 9, 2024 at 10:54am Clive is 54 years old and has hazel eyes. What little hair he has left is mostly brown, whereas his stubble has far more grey in it. He is wearing a dark blue hoodie and is smiling. His hoodie has Saints emblazoned on it, which is the nickname of his favourite football team, Southampton, who finally seem to be on a decent winning streak in the Championship, after a rather shaky start.

What is an Alt Tag?

An Alt Tag is a tag that is attached to an image that helps a blind person understand what it is an iamge of.

A live example

I was in a live website accessibility audit with Mede the other day. She is completely blind and uses a screen reader. She was not born blind but instead developed a degenerative eye condition whilst she was a child. In other words, she can still remember and understand visual concepts.

We were reviewing a series of images of staff members on the about us page of the organisation. There were no alt tags, so I began describing each person to Mede and, as I did so, I began to wonder what would be appropriate to say and what is not.

Mede said she likes descriptions that give her more of a sense of what someone looks like, rather than their job title, such as Head of Communications, so I began to look for characteristics such as their hairstyle, hair colour, if they were wearing glasses etc..

Food for thought

I instinctively steered away from race and age but it got me thinking.

Is it offensive for an alt tag to describe someone as young, older or middle-aged? To describe the colour of their skin or their ethnicity?

Writing Alt tags is a subjective business and it is better to write one than not at all, of course.

What are your thoughts? Please do get in touch and let me know.

Caption: Clive is 54 years old and has hazel eyes. What little hair he has left is mostly brown, whereas his stubble has far more grey in it. He is wearing a dark blue hoodie and is smiling. His hoodie has Saints emblazoned on it, which is the nickname of his favourite football team, Southampton, who finally seem to be on a decent winning streak in the Championship, after a rather shaky start.

Would you like to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about website accessbility, please follow these links:

Watch my TED Talk
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Clive Loseby
Access by Design

Beautiful, WCAG Compliant, Accessible Website Design
Delivering an Outstanding Website Accessibility Audit
Award-winning Web Design, Chichester

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