Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
At level AA of WCAG 2.0 it has become much easier than WCAG 1.0 to justify the use of images instead of text (at level AAA they are prohibited though). The following is quoted from the WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference :
Images of Text:
1.4.5 If the technologies being used can achieve the visual presentation, text is used to convey information rather than images of text except for the following: (Level AA)Understanding Success Criterion 1.4.5
- Customizable: The image of text can be visually customized to the user’s requirements;
- Essential: A particular presentation of text is essential to the information being conveyed.
Note: Logotypes (text that is part of a logo or brand name) are considered essential.
It sounds like there are only a few exceptional circumstances where images of text are allowed, sensibly including logotypes. Actually, the guidelines do become very liberal here though and the word essential can mean almost anything you like, including circumstances where a font the developer wants to use isn’t available. Whilst that is good from a freedom of design expression point of view, it does mean that anything outside the dozen or so fonts that are generally available on most operating systems is allowed to be used by replacing text with an image of text. It could be justified because the developer doesn’t have permission to use the font other than within images (perhaps an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO in the UK) prevents them!). Then to top it all, a developer can use text within an image if they aren’t sure that browsers will antialias the font correctly.
Difficulties in Accessibility Testing
In terms of accessibility testing, the only time I can fail a page against this checkpoint is if I can be reasonably sure that an image contains text using a standard widely available system font (very difficult to prove objectively).
The checkpoint seems to have become so watered down (possibly as a result of the length og time it took for WCAG 2.0 to be agreed) that it doesn’t seem worth having it at all (not at level AA anyway).
- Is this so important in the grand scheme of things?
- Are images of text fine so long as there are text equivalents?
- What do you think?
Please comment here and keep the conversation going.