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When writing a question, you now have to submit the question to go through an automated review process before being allowed to post it. If the review was successful, it'll give you this message:

Our automated system checked for ways to improve your question and found none.

I noticed, however, that if you include an image and don't include a description, the review... says nothing.

screenshot of a question that has successfully been automatically reviewed, with an image without alt text (just the default "image description here") circled

Even if this isn't going to block the question from being posted, could it at least say something about this? There being no way to improve the question is simply wrong in this case and can be easily detected automatically.

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2 Answers 2

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Marked this as . We've had some internal discussions regarding doing an accessibility audit, but this isn't yet a concrete roadmap item. We'll review this request in more depth at a later date in the context of other accessibility issues.

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  • Information only in an image is already discouraged. With no information in text extrapolating and explaining the results to 1) those who cannot see the image, and 2) those who may not understand the information in the image, this is disadvantageous to those using screen readers. Screen readers use alt text and read it out to explain the image. Sep 12, 2021 at 7:28
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I generally don't add any alt text to images here on SE. But that doesn't mean that I write inaccessible posts. In most cases when I use images, they're for illustration, and if they contain important information that is also present in the main text of the post.

The main goal is to make the post usable even if you can't view the images. Image descriptions aren't sufficient or necessary for that. I also often put a short description of the image directly before it in the main text, so that readers know what they're supposed to look at.

The biggest issue by far is something like a graph with values, or a screenshot of text that isn't repeated in the main text of the post itself.

A naive user getting a prompt to enter an image description might just put something like "graph of X" or "screenshot of error message" in there. But what is actually needed are the actual contents of the image as text, not a description of what is in there. Of course someone with experience and understanding of accessibility won't make that mistake, but that is probably not the group you're targeting with that feature.

I think it is reasonable to point users towards this in the review state. But I would be careful on how to write the guidance for this. It should mostly indicate that you should make sure that the text of your post contains all information, and that you can understand it even without looking at the images (unless that is impossible for the topic).

I also would not make adding the descriptions mandatory (I don't think you're asking for that). Putting the relevant information in the main text also works.

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  • Indeed. I wrote some guidance for alt text on Codidact; SE might do well to have such a page as well
    – Mithical
    Aug 5, 2020 at 9:37
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    If there's no alt text, how would someone who can't see know that? Text like "screenshot of error message" is exactly what should be there, assuming the text is already in the main body (as it should be).
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 5, 2020 at 10:42
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    @OrangeDog I generally have an introductory sentence before a screenshot or most images (e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/335577/…). It should be clear from the context there what the image is supposed to show. Aug 5, 2020 at 11:14
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    If the description is below the image (for example), the alt text should still say that. Otherwise blind users have no clue whether they are missing something or not.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 18, 2020 at 19:04
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    Information only in an image is already discouraged. With no information in text extrapolating and explaining the results to 1) those who cannot see the image, and 2) those who may not understand the information in the image, this is disadvantageous to those using screen readers. Screen readers use alt text and read it out to explain the image. Sep 12, 2021 at 7:26

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