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An image is worth a thousand words

An image is worth a thousand words Web Accessibility

How many times have we heard this phrase but is it really true? Most content creators will spend a long time selecting the perfect photo to illustrate their article. The key word is illustrate. The image should be used to enhance the content. Perhaps to set the mood of the article or to illustrate an example in the text such as a product shot.

Every content creator should know by now that when they add the photo they should also add an ALT description for the photo itself. This ALT description serves several purposes.

  1. When you hover over the image you will see the description
  2. When a search engine indexes your website it will use that description in their image search
  3. Users who are using a screen-reader or other assistive technology for a visual impairment will hear the description

If you do not enter an ALT description then the following occurs

  1. You will see the filename on hover. _DSC0465.jpg is meaningless
  2. The search engine will associate your image with the keyword _DSC0465.jpg which is useless
  3. The user will hear the filename read aloud. underscore dee es cee zero four six five dot jay pee gee As well as being useless for the user to hear this it can also take some time to listen too.

During the summer I was invited to take part in a year long EU funded research project, WE4Authors Cluster, for improving the process of creating accessible content by authors https://accessibilitycluster.com/about

The aim of the project is in researching and identifying the key needs of content creators and to work togther on areas where all CMS can benefit. One of those areas the research conducted in stage one of the project identified is to look at ways to make it easier for a content creator to use meaningful ALT descriptions.

There are some wysiwyg editors available for Joomla that will attempt to ensure that you always have an ALT description by taking the filename and manipulating it a little to make it readable.

This works reasonably well if the filename is brian_sits_in_front_of_a_computer.jpg as this will result in an ALT description of brian sits in front of a computer but if the filename is _DSC0465.jpg then it is of no use at all.

Another approach that we are looking at is the use of artificial intelligence to suggest the text to be used. This creates some interesting challenges. Not least being, is the identifiable content in the image what should be described.

If we look at the image below you will see that I have given this an ALT description of typical cluttered desk of a Joomla developer with multiple computers and a coffee mug which is a pretty good description.

typical cluttered desk of a Joomla developer with multiple computers and a coffee mug

However this image was originally posted on google plus (rememeber that?) where the AI used identified the items in the image and tagged it as Brian Teeman. If you look very carefully you will see why.

So maybe AI is not quite ready yet for this use case.

Would you like to try out some of the new accessibility features the WE4Authors Cluster are evaluating?

What if Joomla could produce accessibile content by default?

Or give you advanced support in publishing accessible content?

Over the next few months we are conducting extensive user testing to evaluate different approaches to these challenges, that they are easy to use and meaningfull.

If you are interested in participating in these tests, which will only take about an hour of your time, please contact Jakob Hasslöw if you would like to participate in the user testing. For more details please visit https://accessibilitycluster.com/authoringTool/

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