Images and Graphics

Pictures can add texture and clarification to your reports and presentations, however, they are inaccessible to those who are visually impaired.

To make sure everyone can access the information in your materials, you'll need to fully explain, using text, information contained in graphics and images. In electronic format, screen readers will recognize alternative text (also known as "alt text") if the alt text is there. This communicates to the listener contents of an image. This requires describing each picture in the document and making this part of the electronic document.

If you're presenting images and graphics to groups, see Accessibilty Guide Presentation Notes page.

Alternative Text

All major word processors have the capacity to add an "alternative description" also known as "alternative text" or "alt text" to communicate the contents of an image or table.

Well-written alternative text can replace graphs or pictures if you need to convert your document to text only format.


What to Say in Alternative Text

When writing alternative text ask yourself:

"What does the image or graph convey?"

For pictures, identify the main content or message of the picture. If the image is of a person, identify who the person is. If the task they are performing is important, identify that. If the person is using a wheelchair and that is important to the understanding, identify that. Example:

"Man in a wheelchair working at computer."

For graphics or charts, either list the data and information in the chart or give a high-level summary for the user. For example, if it's a pie chart, write out what each piece of the pie denotes and the percentage. In some cases, it may be okay to write out the overall message of the graph along with information on how someone would get detailed data if they wanted. For example;

"Line graph shows increase in production by 100 units from 2001 through 2008. For more detailed information, please contact us using the information provided on page 2 of this document."

You'll need to ensure that your document has this contact information for people to request more information. If you're preparing a report, it is also good practice to ensure that a discussion of the graphic is in the body of your document (but you still need alt text in each image).

Adding alt text

In MS Word and PowerPoint, you add alt text to an image by clicking on the picture and selecting the "Format" tab on the ribbon at the top of your screen. You will see an option for Alt Text. Alternately, right click the image and select "Edit alt text". Both of these options will open a tool bar on the right side where you can enter your alt text.

Do not use auto-generated alt text provided my MS Word. You know what's important about your image, which is difficult for a computer to replicate.

More information: