Add Alternative Text to Images in Microsoft Office Documents
When creating documents, it is important to tag your images properly with alternative text 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 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.
- Right-click on the image and select Edit Alt Text... (Mac: CTRL + click).
- The Alt Text pane opens on the right.
- Delete any auto-generated alternative text, if any.
- Add the text needed to convey the same essential information as the visual image conveys.
- 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:
- Click the File tab, select Options
- Select Ease of Access > uncheck "Automatically generate alt text for me" > OK
Some images are not critical to the understanding of the document. If removing the image doesn’t change the understanding, mark it as decorative. 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. Consider if the visual element adds value to the understanding of a document.
Mark an Image as "Decorative"
- Follow the steps above to add alternative text to an image.
- Type the word Decorative in the Description field.
- Office 365 (Office 2019), do not check the “Mark as decorative” option because it does not produce useful behavior for some screen readers.
It’s important to make sure that assistive technologies can read images included in documents in the correct order. Use the Layout Options in Microsoft Office to add spacing rather than adding 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 Layout Option at some point. Use these steps to ensure each image uses the "Inline with Text" wrapping:
- Click on an image to select it.
- Click the Layout tab on the ribbon > click the Wrap Text icon > Select In Line with Text.
- OR right-click (Mac: Ctrl + click) > Wrap Text > Inline with Text