Screen Readers and Complex Graphics?

Subject: Screen Readers and Complex Graphics?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Blount, Patricia A" <Patricia -dot- Blount -at- ca -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 01 May 2008 13:34:16 -0400

Patricia Blount wondered: <<I am struggling to write "Alt-Text"
descriptions for complex graphics that go beyond "Graphic of product
architecture" so that visually impaired people using screen readers
will get more than "Oh, here's a graphic and another one..." I know
Alt-Text should describe the graphic's function or purpose and not
merely what it looks like. But actually writing such text is proving
to be very challenging. We're limited to a field about 50 characters
in length and some of our graphics are highly detailed.>>

What you're looking for is the "long description" option, which links
to a plain old HTML file that can be as detailed as you'd like. I
have this as a standard option in Dreamweaver that appears whenever I
insert a graphic. See, for instance, section 7.2 of the following
page: <http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-HTML-TECHS/>

However, it's not clear how well this feature is supported across
browsers; see, for instance, <http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/images/
_IMG_LONGDESC.html>

That being the case, a simple solution that should work everywhere
would be to include a standard hyperlink such as the following below
each graphic: "Detailed description of the key parts of the [name of
graphic]."
I included the "name of graphic" part because in any kind of link-
rich page, I imagine it must be extremely frustrating to have your
screen reader call out dozens of poorly described links. Adding a
name, as in "details of the network architecture graphic", makes the
meaning clearer.

And one word of advice: test these descriptions by reading them to
someone sitting beside you with their eyes closed. If they can't
picture what you're describing, the description needs more work. A
visually impaired reader would be a better tester, and will probably
be better at building the required images in their mind, but if you
don't have access to such testers, pretending to be one will at least
give you some empathy for the nature of the challenge and will
improve your results.

>

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www.geoff-hart.com
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References:
Screen Readers and Complex Graphics: From: Blount, Patricia A

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