this is the title of a blog post

I don't remember when I started adding alt text to photos. That's not to say I've been doing it for soooo long. Back in my hand-coded HTML days, it wasn't a regular practice. It's only been in the last ten years (perhaps less?) that adding alt text has become the polite thing–and then the right thing—to do online. I just don't remember when or why I started.

What I know for sure is that I was inspired by someone else. Someone wrote about the benefits of alt text. Someone showed us how to add it on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr. Someone explained why it's important and a best practice for posting on the web.

And now I'm telling you. If you post visual content online, please add alt text. It doesn't have to be complicated or long-winded. I like the first sentence from this guide by Harvard's Digital Accessibility Services: "Alternative (Alt) Text is meant to convey the 'why' of the image as it relates to the content of a document or webpage."

Alt text conveys the "why" of an image. It explains why you included the image, its purpose in your document. It makes the connection between image and words for the people who cannot see the former. When I'm writing alt text, I describe the central image first–the most important piece–and then details that add to the picture as a whole.

Alt text came first, so when I started streaming on Twitch and posting videos on YouTube, I had to figure out captions before anything else. When I think about captions on video, I think about curb cuts.

The curb cut effect is the idea that accessibility features designed with disabled people in mind are used by more than that primary group. Usually, the curb cut effect is meant to convince business-minded people that these features are worth the investment. If they benefit everyone, it's much more likely a company will provide them.

I'm a hearing person, but I love closed captions. I use them almost all the time I'm watching video. Sometimes it's because the sound design is subpar, and I'm struggling to hear. Or I'm watching something short on mute because I'm in public.

As I'm planning to make video content again, I'm thinking about whether I want to add hardcoded captions. The last time I wanted captions on a video I was editing in iMovie, I had to hack the title feature and transcribe every word by hand. But so many programs do automatic captions these days. How can you not include captions?

How can you not make the online experience for everyone just a little bit better?

This post is part of the IndieWeb carnival. March's theme is accessibility in the small web.

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