Alternative Text

Alternative Text

Access for All 2020 enews bannerAlternative Text in Documents

Not all users can see images. Many people use assistive technology like screen readers or text-to-speech software which reads the page out loud, and this software will read the alternative text instead of the image. Alternative text can also be used when a user has images turned off. The image will be replaced with alternative text.

Adding an image or a graphic to your content without using proper or empty alternative attributes (alt tags), can be extremely frustrating for people with visual impairments navigating your site through assistive technologies.

Different assistive devices used in a public setting

Adding alternative text for images is the first principle of web accessibility. It is also one of the most difficult to properly implement. The alternative text conveys the content and functionality of an image. It is very rarely a description of what the image looks like. When authoring alternative text, consider what the core information presented by the image is. Asking the question, "If you could not use the image, what text would you use to replace it?" is often a good test to determine appropriate alternative text.

When using image alt text, it should not include “picture of” or “image of”. Screen readers automatically announce an image as an image. So the suggested alt text for the graphic below would be "red apple".

red apple illustration

So this alternative text would be read aloud “image, red apple”. 


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