Providing text alternatives for ASCII art, emoticons, and leetspeak

Important Information about Techniques

See Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria for important information about the usage of these informative techniques and how they relate to the normative WCAG 2.1 success criteria. The Applicability section explains the scope of the technique, and the presence of techniques for a specific technology does not imply that the technology can be used in all situations to create content that meets WCAG 2.1.

Applicability

HTML and XHTML

This technique relates to Success Criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content (Sufficient).

Description

Before graphics became widely used on the internet, ASCII characters were often arranged to form pictures or graphs. Although ASCII art is not used frequently on the Web anymore, it must be remembered that, when it is used, it is very confusing to people who are blind and accessing the internet using screen readers. If it is used it should also have a text explanation of what the picture is. It is also suggested that there be a link to skip over the ASCII art (although this is not required).

Emoticons are very popular. They include ASCII characters that form facial expressions and other ways to communicate an emotion. They can be confusing for screen reader users. When possible it is better simply to use a word like "smile" instead of an emoticon. But if emoticons are used they should have a text alternative. In some contexts, blog and forum software for example, plug-ins are available that automatically convert ASCII characters used as emoticons into HTML images with text alternatives.

Leetspeak uses various combinations of characters, including numerals and special characters, to replace standard characters. Leet has become a part of Internet culture and slang. Leet is frequently used to beat text and spam filters. It is often incomprehensible to blind people using screen readers, and therefore requires a text alternative in order to conform to Success Criteria 1.1.1.

Note

Because support for this technique is limited, it is recommended that authors provide the text alternative in text.

Examples

Example 1

The following shows three options for providing alternatives for an emoticon representing "fright," which is made out of an equal sign followed by the number eight, a hyphen and the number zero.

=8-0 (fright)

<abbr title="fright">=8-0</abbr>

<img src="fright.gif" alt="fright"/>
             

Example 2

Here is ASCII art with an explanation of the picture preceding it. It includes a link to skip over the ASCII art. Skip ASCII example.

 Figure 1: ASCII art picture of a butterfly. 
 <a href="#skipbutterfly">Skip ASCII image</a>
                                 
                                                                LLLLLLLLLLL
                                                            __LLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                                           LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                                         _LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                                        LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                                      _LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                                      LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                              L     _LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                             LL     LLLLLL~~~LLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                            _L    _LLLLL      LLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                            L~    LLL~        LLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                           LL   _LLL        _LL   LLLLLLLL
                                          LL    LL~         ~~     ~LLLLLL
                                          L   _LLL_LLLL___         _LLLLLL
                                         LL  LLLLLLLLLLLLLL      LLLLLLLL
                                         L  LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL        LLLLLL
                                        LL LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL        LLLLL~
                  LLLLLLLL_______       L _LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL     LLLLLLLL
                         ~~~~~~~LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL~       LLLLLL
                       ______________LLL  LLLLLLLLLLLLLL ______LLLLLLLLL_
                   LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL  LLLLLLLL~~LLLLLLL~~~~~~   ~LLLLLL
             ___LLLLLLLLLL __LLLLLLLLLLLLL LLLLLLLLLLLLL____       _LLLLLL_
          LLLLLLLLLLL~~   LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL   LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL     ~~~LLLLL
      __LLLLLLLLLLL     _LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL_  LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL_       LLLLL
     LLLLLLLLLLL~       LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL   ~L ~~LLLLLLLLLLLLL      LLLLLL
   _LLLLLLLLLLLL       LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL_  LL      LLLLLLLLL   LLLLLLLLL
  LLLLLLLLLLLLL        LLLLLLLLLLLLL~LLLLLL~L   LL       ~~~~~       ~LLLLLL
 LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL__L    LLLLLLLLLLLL_LLLLLLL LL_  LL_            _     LLLLLL
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL~     ~LLLLLLLL~~LLLLLLLL   ~L  ~LLLL          ~L   LLLLLL~
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL               _LLLLLLLLLL    LL  LLLLLLL___     LLLLLLLLLL
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL              LL~LLLLLLLL~     LL  LLLLLLLLLLLL   LLLLLLL~
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL_  __L       _L  LLLLLLLL      LLL_ LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
 LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL        L~  LLLLLLLL      LLLLLLL~LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL~
  LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL___L_ LL   LLLLLLL       LLLL     LLLLLLLLLLLLLL
   ~~LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL     LLLLL~      LLLLL        ~~~~~~~~~
           LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL_ _   LLL       _LLLLL
               ~~~~~~LLLLLLLLLL~             LLLLLL
                         LLLLL              _LLLLLL
                         LLLLL    L     L   LLLLLLL
                          LLLLL__LL    _L__LLLLLLLL
                          LLLLLLLLLL  LLLLLLLLLLLL
                           LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
                            ~LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL~~
                               LLLLLLLLLLLLL
                                 ~~~~~~~~~
<a name="skipbutterfly"></a>            

Example 3

The following is Leetspeak for "Austin Rocks".

<abbr title="Austin Rocks">Au5t1N r0xx0rz</abbr>             

Tests

Procedure

  1. Open the page in a common browser.
  2. Check to see that the content contains ASCII art, emoticons and/or leetspeak.
  3. Check that there is a text alternative immediately before or after all ASCII art, emoticons and/or Leetspeak.

Expected Results

  • Test procedure #3 is true.