Making Documents Accessible

A screen reader (used by blind and other visually impaired individuals) cannot read an image since it is not intelligible computer code. Any time we use an image in a document, the computer can report that the image is there, but if there is no accompanying identifying text, known as alternate text or Alt Text, blind users have no idea if they are missing important information or the image was merely decorative. WebAIM provides complete instructions on how to provide meaningful alt text: Alt text information.

Well-written alt text will describe the image and give an idea why it was considered meaningful in context.  As an example, the alt text for the following image in the header of a document could read “Fresno Pacific University logo,” identifying the document as coming from this institution. However, in other contexts, it might also be important to describe the academic-looking building surrounded by sun-like rays extending beyond the motto “Founded on Christ” if the motto and what the logo looks like are just as important in context as identifying what the image is.

To create Alt Text, right click on an image and choose Edit Alt Text. Then in the box that appears to the right, insert descriptive text. Clicking the X-close box automatically saves the Alt Text.

WebAIM gives the following rules:

The alt attribute should typically:

  • Be accurate and equivalent in presenting the same content and function of the image.
  • Be succinct. This means the correct content (if there is content) and function (if there is a function) of the image should be presented as succinctly as is appropriate. Typically no more than a few words are necessary, though rarely a short sentence or two may be appropriate.
  • NOT be redundant or provide the same information as text within the context of the image.
  • NOT use the phrases "image of ..." or "graphic of ..." to describe the image. It is usually apparent to the user that it is an image. And if the image is conveying content, it is typically not necessary that the user know that it is an image that is conveying the content, as opposed to text. If the fact that an image is a photograph or illustration, etc. is important content, it may be useful to include this in alternative text.


Any information presented in charts, graphs, maps should also be provided in text. Such complex image descriptions should be done within the text of the document with Alt Text merely giving the label or describing the type of image.