Accessible Images

Alternative Text (Alt Text)

Web editors should add descriptions for all graphics (photographs, charts, or other images) used on their site. This description is called alternative (alt) text. When a screen reader reaches an image on your page, it will read out loud the description you have added. Alt text allows a user of a screen reader to get a sense of what that image is and its purpose in context.

How to Add Alt Text to Your Images:

Inline Images
  1. Navigate to the page where your image is located.
  2. Click on the Edit tab. Scroll to the WYSIWYG area and select your image.
  3. Right click and choose Edit Image. A pop up window will appear showing the Alternative Text text field.
  4. Enter your alt text and submit.

how to add alt text in the cms

Captioned Images
  1. Navigate to the page where your image is located. 
  2. Click on the Edit tab. Scroll to the Captioned Image dialog. The field for Alternative Text is just above the Caption field.
  3. Enter your alt text and submit.

screen shot of the captioned image dialog

Keep in Mind

Insert/Edit image window on CMS

Writing Helpful Alt Text

When authoring alt text, consider the context in which the image is being used. Your goal is to convey in words the information another user might gain visually. How would you describe the image to someone on the phone?

Professor Parno talks to students at a wooded dig site in Concord, Massachusetts

This image could be described in many ways, including:

As the author of the document or website, it is your job to determine which alt text is the most useful in each case. What do you know about the image and why is it on the the page?

This image above comes from the Brandeis homepage and links to a personal interest story on BrandeisNOW. The more detailed description is best, because it entices the visitor to read the article. Conversely, if this image was being used as a simple stock image of students, it would be adequate to put, “professor addresses students,” as the description. 

Think about the message other users are getting from your carefully selected image. The Alt text, “map of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic States,” may be sufficient, but if there is more detail apparent visually, consider adding it – “Map of the U.S. Mid-Atlantic States illustrating common routes of the Underground Railroad, circa 1855.”

If you need help describing a particularly complex image, such as a graph or map, please reach out. We are here to help!