Provide Alternate Text
Note: the first two slides include the title 1194.22(a) Alternate Text and a Department of Veterans Affairs logo.
The first regulation has to do with alternative text. Every single image on every single page of your site should have some text equivalent, or so-called alt text, provided for each image.
This includes for spacer images, any kind of icon that conveys information, any image that is there for illustration.
Defining Alternate Text
The alt text that is used is context-specific. It should convey the meaning of the image or the most meaningful aspect of it. If an image does not have any real meaning, like a spacer image or something there that's just there for decoration, you should use an empty alt tag.
The alt tag should be less than 150 characters, preferably about five words. If it's longer than that, use the longdesc tag instead.
Image: Screen capture of the top portion of a past Department of Veterans Affairs web page
SCREEN READER: Link, graphic Veterans Affairs, banner with U.S. flag.
PRESENTER: So right here we have the Veterans' logo, and it says that the U.S. flag is visible as well so that's all useful and meaningful information.
Image: Screen capture of the lower portion of a past Department of Veterans Affairs web page
SCREEN READER: Graphic doctor explaining instructions to woman.
PRESENTER: And there we have the alt tag for the actual illustration that describes what's happening in that illustration. So that will provide some information about sort of what's on the Web page, what those images are, and it gives a user a good sense of them.
There are also things like spacer images and things like that on this page, but they've been alt tagged and given an empty alt tag, so they won't be spoken. If there weren't tags on those images, the screen reader would actually read the file name. And sometimes that can be not only long and meaningless but very confusing, so it's very important to do this correctly.