Making Memes Accessible: How To Write Alt Text
In recent years, alternative text (or “alt text”) has become a standard web accessibility practice for most social media platforms. When Instagram launched the feature in 2018, alt text could either be automatically generated or written manually in an effort to increase the number of images online with associated alt text.
It’s great that the functionality is expanding in popularity, however, it’s also important that it be used properly. While most people may think of alternative text describing photos or social media graphics, one modern application of this accessibility tool is memes – funny images online that are quickly spread by a lot of users.
Keep reading to learn more about the basics of alternative text, and how you can use it to make even your memes accessible 😎
What is alternative text, anyway?
Alt text provides a written description of non-textual media content, and is most typically used by assistive technologies to make content accessible to those with visual or cognitive impairments. Additionally, alt text will display by default (when available) if an image file isn’t loaded properly.
Including alternative text with images can also positively impact a brand’s ranking on search engine results pages. Alt text allows bots to ‘read’ and better understand the content, similar to how they read closed captions on video content. This means your content can be better recommended to viewers, gain more exposure, and ultimately lead to increased site traffic.
But… how do you know what to write? What’s included in alt text descriptions depends largely on what the content is portraying, and can be adapted to anything from infographics to memes. Across the board, however, there are a few rules of thumb to write useful & descriptive alt text:
Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) is a nonprofit organization that creates & shares web accessibility resources, including guidance on how to write effective alt text. WebAIM says alternative attributes should typically:
- Be accurate & equivalent. Describe both the content and function of the image
- Be concise. Limit description lengths to 1-2 sentences
- Avoid phrases like “image of…” Users generally understand it’s an image, but the content of the image is what’s most important
- Avoid redundancy. Differentiate alt text descriptions from adjacent captions or body text
So, how do I write alt text?
Veronica Lewis is the author of the blog Veronica with Four Eyes, which publishes resources for visual impairment and assistive technologies. As a person with low vision herself, she realized there was a lack of resources on writing alt text for memes and set about remedying the problem herself.
In her blog post on How to Write Alt Text for Memes, Veronica discusses the basics of alt text & assistive technology, creates a style guide for alt text descriptions on memes, and provides further guidance on how to write alt text for specific types of memes.
One should keep the basics in mind when writing alt text, but Veronica outlines even more specific guidelines for writing useful descriptions on memes.
The alternative text description on this image of Spongebob follows the example above: “Spongebob dressed as a caveman looking around wildly.”
Want to learn more about web accessibility?
The “Human Touch” in Live Captioning Ensures Accuracy & Accessibility
Closed captions are an important factor in making video accessible for all audiences, including live streamed events. After the pandemic gave rise to a renewed popularity of virtual events, more organizations are looking for live captioning solutions – but keep in mind,…
Why You Need Live (Human) Captions to Stream Events
We believe in using closed captions to create accessible content for all – and live events are no exception! Born out of necessity during the pandemic, streaming events quickly became the new normal due to the convenience and flexibility offered by virtual alternatives. …
How to Choose the Right Translation & Subtitling Vendor
Searching for a video translation & subtitling vendor can be overwhelming, but not all vendors were created equal. After some time in the industry, we’ve gained expert insight on what to look for in a vendor – services required, cost-effectiveness, accuracy, and…