In this post we’ll be looking at how to use images for anyone who finds it difficult to either see, or decipher images, charts or schematics. Once again we need to consider how a user might actually access the information that you are providing. I’ll emphasise again that this is concerning digital accessibility – so how someone might use a computer, tablet or phone to get the information from your pattern. There are many ways to do this and each individual will most likely have their personal favourite solution. The point of these posts is to ensure that you don’t inadvertently create more barriers than necessary.
We need to consider the difficulties that some people may have with seeing and interpreting images, diagrams and charts. Vision difficulties can range from relatively minor conditions such as colour blindness or shortsightedness to severe sight impairment where a person has no light awareness or is unable to recognise shapes. Any difficulties may also be influenced by other factors such as tiredness or even current lighting conditions.
Many people prefer to have text read out to them, either all the time, or as mentioned above when they are tired or the light is poor. You can hear a pdf being read out loud on a computer by opening it up in Adobe Reader and then choosing ‘View’ and then the ‘Read out loud’ option at the bottom of the menu.
You may have seen a prompt on either microsoft Word or PowerPoint asking you to add ‘Alt Text’ to any image you may have included. This is a simple device that ensures that a screen reader can announce to the user what the image is there for. Before we go any further, I’ll briefly explain what a screen reader does. It does what it says it does – reads the screen, but that means not just the text in a document, it reads thinngs about the text such as ‘heading level 2’ for example. It also provides information about an image provided there is a text alternative. The best way to do this is to ensure your images have the ‘Alt text’ option completed. To give you an idea of how a screen reader might access a pattern here’s an example.
This also gives you as a writer the chance to really think about what the image doing. What is its purpose in your pattern. Is it providing information, such as what the finished item will look like, or details of the instructions, or is this twiddly bit just separating one bit of the page from another. Writing Alt Text is a bit of a skill. In general, it should be short and simply explain the content and the function of the image. So for a photo on a scarf pattern you could put, ‘A good way to style the scarf’.
Note: A screen reader can tell that an image is an image and so there is no need to put ‘image of’ or ‘photo of’
If the image is describing something more complicated, like the construction of a garment, then this information needs to be in the text also. Don’t try and put a lengthy description into the alt text. There is a very detailed and helpful article on Alternative Text on the WebAIM site.