Topics Map > Services > Teaching, Learning and Classrooms > Assistive Technology

Add Alternative Text to Images in Microsoft Office Documents

It is important to tag your images properly with alternative text when creating documents so they are readable and accessible by individuals with disabilities.

Accessible documents benefit everyone - not just those with disabilities! For example, accessible documents benefit cell phone and tablet users, as well as students with low bandwidth access. Accessible documents also make it easier for browsers to display them and are much easier to convert to various platforms or other formats.

Alternative Text (Alt Text)

Everything you need to know to write effective Alt Text - guidance and tips from Microsoft.

Alternative text provides a textual alternative to graphics and images and serves several functions:

  • The alternative text can be read audibly, allowing the content and purpose of the image to be accessible to those with visual or certain cognitive disabilities.
  • Text is displayed in place of the image if the image file is not loaded or when the user chooses not to view images in their browser.
  • Computers and assistive technologies cannot analyze an image and determine what it is without alternative text.

Alternative text should:

  • describe the image and its purpose
  • include important text from the image
  • be accurate
  • be briefly and clearly expressed
  • not be redundant
  • not use the phrases "image of..." "graphic of..." or "logo of..." to describe the image
  • not be over 125 characters (most screen readers will stop reading after reaching 125 characters)

Adding Alternative Text to an Image

Note: Instructions may vary when using Office versions older than Office 2019 or the Office 365 web versions, and/or Macintosh Office applications.
  1. Right-click on the image and select Edit Alt Text... (Mac: CTRL + click).
    Edit Alt Text...
  2. The Alt Text pane opens on the right.

    Alternative Text

  3. Delete any auto-generated alternative text, if any.
  4. Add the text needed to convey the same essential information as the visual image conveys.
  5. Be sure to use proper capitalization and punctuation.

Note: Some Microsoft Office applications automatically generate the alternative text for images by default. Automatically generated alternative text is rarely useful! This option can be disabled:

  1. Click the File tab, select Options
  2. Select Ease of Access > uncheck "Automatically generate alt text for me" > OK

    Ease of Access | uncheck Automatically generate alt text for me

Decorative Images

Consider if the visual element adds value to the understanding of a document. An image should be marked as decorative if it isn't critical and doesn’t contribute to the user's understanding of the document. For example, NDSU logos that appear on every page should be marked as decorative since they are not conveying any specific information. As always, avoid using decorative images when possible.

Mark an Image as "Decorative"

  1. Follow the steps above to add alternative text to an image.
  2. Type the word Decorative in the Description field.
  3. Office 365 (Office 2019), do not check the “Mark as decorative” option because it does not produce useful behavior for some screen readers.

    Alt Text Decorative | Mark as decorative unchecked

Image Layouts

It’s important to make sure that assistive technologies can read images included in documents in the correct order. Use the Paragraph and Arrange optins on the Layout tab in Microsoft Office to add spacing rather than manually inserting extra space characters or returns (paragraph breaks) to produce a desired visual layout.


Wrap Text Around an Image in Word

"Inline with Text" is the default image Layout Option in newer Office versions, but the default setting may have been changed to another image option at some point. Use these steps to ensure each image uses the "Inline with Text" wrapping:

  1. Click on an image to select it.
  2. Click the Layout tab on the ribbon > click the Wrap Text icon > Select In Line with Text.

    Layout | Wrap Text | In Line with Text

  3. OR right-click (Mac: Ctrl + click) > Wrap Text > Inline with Text

Change the image default back to "In Line with Text":

  1. Click File > Options > Advanced
  2. Scroll down to the "Cut, copy, and paste" options > select In line with text for the "Insert/paste pictures as:" drop-down list > OK

See Also:

Keywords:blackboard, black, board, bb, ally, blackboard ally, bb Ally, blackboard accessibility, blackbaord, baord, universal design, universal design for learning, UDL, digital accessibility, alternative formats, assistive, assistive technology, assistive devices, access, document remediation, accessibility standards, disability, disabilities, screen reader, accessibility indicators, accessibility indicator, gear icons, colored icons, alternative format icons, accessible course, accessibility score, accessibility report, accessibility checklist, HTML, ePub, audio, electronic braille, tagged pdf   Doc ID:107706
Owner:Sharley K.Group:IT Knowledge Base
Created:2020-12-08 22:08 CSTUpdated:2022-10-11 14:20 CST
Sites:IT Knowledge Base
Feedback:  0   0