How can I make my images accessible?
Adding effective alternative text, or 'alt text', to your images increases the accessibility of your digital images. By including alt text, you can make sure that your images meet accessibility standards.
Who benefits from accessible images?
- Visually Impaired Users. Users who are visually impaired may use a screen reader to navigate a site. By adding alt text, screen readers can announce to the user what is happening in an image.
- Situationally Disabled Users. If a user of a site has a slow internet connection, or low cell data, they will have the opportunity to turn images 'off' while still having the opportunity to fully engage with your content.
- You! Accessible images increase your search engine optimization and allow search engines to more easily find your content.
What is alt text and why is it important?
Alternative Text, or 'alt text', is the text used to describe an image on a website for users who can't see. Alt text is important for users who are using assistive technology, such as a screen reader, to navigate a website. Because of this, all website images are required to have alternative text included.
How do I know if an image needs alt text or not?
If an image is used to explain an idea, add to your content, or increases the understanding of the concept you are presenting for any reason - it needs alt text! Only images that are 'decorative', or those who do not provide any additional information to your content, don't need alt text.
Where do I include my alt text?
Alt text can be included in one of two ways:
- A description of the image can be included next to the image you are making accessible within your document or website.
- The alt text can be included in the image description itself.
How can I write effective alt text?
- Be accurate. Give your audience a good understanding of what is going on.
- Be short and sweet. Include a few sentences about what is happening in your image. If you need more than a couple sentences to explain what is going on, consider adding a text description near your image in addition to the alt text.
- Give context. What makes this image important enough to include in your work? Explain to your audience the context needed to understand this image.
- Include text that is part of the image. If your image contains words, make sure to include that in your alt text. A screen reader won't be able to read the text in an image.
- Repeat yourself. You don't need to include alt text if the picture is already described in your main text.
- Use the phrases "image of ..." or "picture of ..." to describe the image. Screen readers already announce to users that they are navigating through an image, so stating it in your alt text can get redundant.
- Add alt text to decorative images. This information isn't helpful to users who are navigating your content with a screen reader, so it's best to not include alt text in decorative images. Just be sure to mark them as 'decorative' in your program of course.
- Use alt text to boost SEO. Adding alt text does increase your SEO score, but cramming key words into your alt text to do this is unhelpful and unnecessary.
Can I see some examples of alt text being used?
How do I add alt text for complex images, like charts and graphs?
How can I add alt text to images that have already been uploaded to OU?
Still need help?
Let us know! We are happy to help you make your content, documents, and webpages more accessible.
Madison Ellis, Accessibility Specialist
Amy Cole, Digital Media Program Manager