• Alessio Norrito

Do you know how a blind person reads the computer? The true meaning and importance of Alt Text

Starting off with a small intro, recently I was following a course on UX and UI (user experience and user interface) which added an interesting point to it: accessibility. An accessible interface means something that can be interacted with, no matter a person's disability or impairment. In the case of individuals who are blind or have severe visual impairment, there is an hardware called screen reader, that translates what's on screen into braile.

The image shows the functioning of a screen reader and its controls and outputs, such as voice command or keypad control and audio or braile display output
How does a screen reader work

When it comes to written text, the process sounds pretty simple. The reader recognizes the text and automatically transmits it to the preferred output. However, have you ever wondered how a blind person is able to perceive an image on a website? This is where accessibility really comes into place.

While wasting my time on Facebook like many people do, I saw a post about a person complaining about the impossibility of fully understanding an article or a post due to the absence of an alt text on the images. What is an alt text? It is an abbreviation of alternative text, and it is a description of what the image actually is. Imagine reading a book, a really good one, where you can actually picture the place where the action is really taking place, because it is described so good by the author. The alt text is exactly that, a descriptive bit of text that can let you picture the image of a given website without actually seeing it.

A detailed drawing of a farm with some trees in the scene, recalling the concept of a description through alt text

Before taking the course and before reading about these complaints, I didn't know about the importance of alt text. I knew only of its importance as a SEO factor, that can help you get higher on the rankings and so on. Let's say it is usually marketed like this. I agree on the fact that marketing on it as a ranking factor is very appealing, but let's not forget about its extraordinary importance in terms of accessibility.

So if you are on of these people that prefers to write their own blog or content, and you don't have the help of a professional, I strongly suggest that you always fill the alt text section of your images. Not only you will gain in terms of ranking, but most importantly you will make your content accessible. The internet was made for everyone, so we shouldn't forget anyone.

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