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Individuals, business encouraged to use alt text to help visually impaired understand online content

Many of us take browsing the internet for granted, but for around 30,000 visually impaired New Zealanders it can be a confusing experience. 

That’s why Blind and Low Vision NZ, formerly the Blind Foundation, has launched a movement called Alt Text for All.

It is encouraging individual and businesses to lift their game to help those who can't see feel more included in society.

Alt Text is extra detail you can add to a photo before you post it, with the visually impaired in mind.

“The alt text is basically describing what's in the photo for people using screen reader software,” Digital Accessibility Advisor Chandra Harrison explained to 1 NEWS.

Louise von Sierakowski, from Blind & Low Vision NZ, said so much of the internet was visual.

“A lot of our online world, the information is in visuals and so being able to convey the information in those visuals means that people who have sight loss are able to participate as much as everyone else,” she said.

Ese Aumalesulu, a music producer and school music specialist in South Auckland who is blind, relies on alt text to understand content online.

“There's nothing more frustrating than having a conversation strand, and not knowing what the point of the conversation is,” he said.

Very few people currently add alt text to photos posted online, and Mr Aumalesulu demonstrated to 1 NEWS what his experience is usually like.

A promotional photo on Facebook without alt text, was vaguely described to him as seven people smiling, with unidentified text in the image.

Blind & Low Vision NZ says the descriptive function’s not hard to use and it is already built into most social media apps.

The organisation has created a website with details on how to use Alt Text.

“It's something that's a little bit of a best kept secret, a lot of us don't know that it's there and that in using it we could make a difference”, said Ms von Sierakowski.

Mr Aumelesulu told 1 NEWS, he’s thanking people in advance, for giving it a go.

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The new encourages more people to use a descriptive system called alt text. Source: 1 NEWS