This post was originally published September 26, 2013, but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.

Digital accessibility and WCAG 2.1 are in bigger focus than ever before. Unfortunately, even as website owners and editors educate themselves on equal access, some outdated accessibility misconceptions continue to persist. Look through our list to see how many bad deeds you’ve fallen for.

Naughty or Nice: All images need alternative text

It is not necessarily correct to add alternative text to every image. If the image doesn't provide any information and is purely decorative, there is no need to add alt text. You should, however, add an alternative attribute (alt=””) for every image. So while alt attributes should be added to every image, alternative text should not. When the image is decorative, don’t use alt text but use the alt attribute and leave it empty.

Screen readers read text out loud, so when an alternative attribute (even for ornamental images) is left out, the screen reader will read the full image URL, creating unnecessary noise for the user. When the alternative attribute is present, but empty, the screen reader just skips over that image altogether. Also, do not add a space between the quotation marks for empty alt attributes. As a rule of thumb, it’s good practice to add a period at the end of the alt attribute because it creates a pause for the screen reader and offers a more pleasant reading experience.
If you’re determining whether your image needs alternative text, ask yourself these questions:

"Do I use the image as a decoration?"
If yes, the image should not have alternative text. Simply add an empty alt attribute.

"Do I use the image to provide information?"
If yes, use alternative text to provide a clear, concise description of whatever content the image contains.

"Does the image link to somewhere?"
If yes, use alternative text to describe the destination of the link.

This statement is Naughty.

Naughty or Nice: Linking to an audio reading tool is not enough to make your website usable for all visitors

An audio reading tool might help some people with dyslexia or other cognitive disabilities, but people with different disabilities or impairments use other assistive technologies that offer more features than a simple audio reading tool. Remember, there are users with motor issues that impact movement and use technology such as mouth sticks, head wands, or switch devices. Other people have auditory issues requiring the need for captions and transcripts. Still others experience visual impairments such color blindness, for example, and require different accessibility considerations on your website. Web accessibility standards and guidelines like WCAG are created so that user agents such as browsers and assistive technologies can interpret a website and render it in a meaningful way to the user. Therefore, following established guidelines is essential when working toward greater accessibility.

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Naughty or Nice: Your CMS can be trusted to automatically put proper headings in fixed places on your pages

A website's main areas need to be categorized by headings. Web editors should always check whether H1 tags, H2 tags, etc. are used correctly and they should enter these tags if they are missing. If you wish to logically and visually highlight an area by using bold font, large font, another color or so forth, then this heading should also be highlighted code-wise so the heading not only functions visually, but also structurally.

The statement is Naughty.

Naughty or Nice: Placeholder text in your search field is sufficient for accessibility

Placeholder text is not a replacement for labels and assistive technologies don’t consider it the same as a label. In fact, placeholder text is not even displayed on some older web browsers. If you want to make sure that all users can identify and use your search field, and at the same time comply with accessibility guidelines, then you need to explicitly add text to the field through a label tag with an ‘attribute for’ (<label for="">).

The statement is Naughty.

To learn more about making your website accessible, download our free e-book The All-In-One Digital Accessibility E-Book