Visuals are key to design but what if you are designing for the visually impaired? How do you handle images and icons? How do you make sure that all information you give is accessible even for the visually impaired?
The images used in your digital support should be as accessible as possible. Apart from being readable by the VIP’s assistive technology, they should also take into account the following points:
Regarding the use of alternative texts that describe the image when voice over technology reads it, is useful to have a look at the article Alternative Text at Web Accessibility in Mind. According to it and other references that are listed in the literature list chapter, the alternative text attribute in images should function as it follows:
Images that are links should never have the alt attribute empty. Otherwise, screen readers will relate nothing, the image file name or URL. Not using “a link to..” or similar expressions is recommended.
In the example below we have two different ways to publish an image that links to an URL. In the left example there's no text underneath the image. We added an alt-text to the img to make sure that the screenreader will tell a VIP what the image links to. In the right example we have the explanation of the link underneath the image, so we don't have to put an alt-text in the image. If we would, the screenreader would repeat itself.
For a more detailed information please visit webaim.org
When you want to use icons on your website, it's a good idea to check out FontAwesome.io. FontAwesome has a large collection of icons that you can use for all your projects. A big plus in these icons is the fact that they're scaleable, easy to use in HTML and made with accessibility in mind:
Icons are symbols that can convey a ton of information and really help people comprehend directions, signs, and interfaces. It's important that we create and use them so that they can reach the largest amount of people possible.
<i class="fa fa-fort-awesome" style="font-size: 8em"></i> <i class="fa fa-eye" style="font-size: 5em"></i> <i class="fa fa-gamepad" style="font-size: 2em"></i> <i class="fa fa-newspaper-o" style="font-size: 1em"></i>As you can see in the example above, it's easy to change the size with font-size. Because HTML & CSS think the icons are a part of the text you can change the size and color just as easily as it is for text. If you change the textcolor in the preferences pane on the left, you'll see that the icons will also change.
When designing your own icons, you have to keep in mind that they should be scaleable. With vector icons you can upscale them to whatever size you want without having to worry about losing quality. Icons are usually meant to be simple, but especially when you're designing for VIPs it's good to keep the amount of detail as low as possible.
A last thing to remember is that icons are also images. When a completely blind user visits your website you have to make sure that, if the icons are important, you give them an alt-text for the screenreader to read.