Alternative Text for Digitally Accessible Materials

Alternative Text for Digitally Accessible Materials


Individuals who are blind or have low vision can benefit from a textual description of images that they are unable to see or decipher. To do this:

  • Ensure that software and platforms allow for alternative text (alt text).
  • Provide appropriate alt text when images are used.

What is Alternative Text?

Simply stated, alt text is a textual description of graphical information. Alt text provides the only means for independent access to the images and non-textual information on websites or in documents to those who are unable to see them.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word image editing window
Here is an example of an image being edited via typical word processing program like Microsoft Word. Overlaid on top of the image is a software dialogue window with a field labelled "Alternative Text" where a written description is included.


Why Does Alt Text Matter?

No one likes to feel left out.

Without alt text descriptions attached to images, people who are blind or have low vision are left out of knowing what is in your content and how it pertains to them or the subject matter. This would be frustrating for anyone who is put in this spot.

Visit this Twitter thread where a blind user describes the inability to participate in social media posts that don’t use alternative text.

Watch the accompanying short video to experience what it can be like to encounter graphics that have no alt text, inadequate alt text, and alt text that includes all of the relevant information.

How Should Alt Text Be Written?

Alt text should be simple, clear, and concise but also communicate all of the relevant information that may be “hidden” in the graphic. Avoid writing “Image of” or “Graphic of” since the assistive software will say that for the person who is blind or has low vision.

Depending on the context, the alt text for the same image may change so think about how the image is relevant to the subject matter at hand.

How is Alt Text Added to an Image?

Do you want to try adding alt text to an image right now? Open a Google Doc or Word document and insert an image. 

  • In Google Docs, right click on the image, select Alt Text, and type the text into the Description box. 
  • In Word, right click on the image, select Format Picture, click on the Layout and Properties option, select Alt Text, and type the text into the Description box. 

Leaving the Title box blank in both programs is okay.

Where Is There More Information About Alt Text?

Learn more about alt text and how to use it when creating accessible materials in Course 3 of the AMMR modules on EduPaths.

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