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Formatting Images (Word or PowerPoint)

Images in Microsoft Office documents (.docx, .pptx) need appropriate descriptive tags in order to be accessible to users with vision impairment including those using screen readers


  • Guideline 1.1-  Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content:
    • 1.1.1 Non-text Content (Level A)
      • All images, form image buttons, and image map hot spots have appropriate, equivalent alternative text.
      • Images that do not convey content, are decorative, or contain content that is already conveyed in text are given null alt text (alt=””) or implemented as CSS backgrounds. All linked images have descriptive alternative text.
      • Equivalent alternatives to complex images are provided in context or on a separate (linked and/or referenced via longdesc) page

Example of Standard in Action

To add Alt Text to Images in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint 2010 or later:

  1. Click on image
  2. Right click
  3. Click on Format Picture


Example of Issue

A screen reader will skip over images that have no alternative text thus eliminating useful information to a reader who cannot visually decode images. Providing an effective text description depends on the image you are describing. For example, a purely decorative image may not have any text associated since it conveys no meaning. Scientific diagrams and images may require concise and expert text to accurately convey the meaning including linking to another page with a more detailed explanation.  For a screen reader user, an image with no descriptive tag is equivalent to a sighted person seeing a black box.

black box - no alt tag

Locating the Issue in Your Course

You will want to look through your course for each instance of a Word or PowerPoint document. You can click through each page in your course to look for these documents, or use the file management tools within your LMS.   In order to test whether your Word or PowerPoint documents have images without appropriate text descriptions

  • Open the Word or PowerPoint document
  • Click on the image that you want to check
  • Select Format > Picture menu item
  • Select Alt Text tab in the toolbar
  • Review the text in the Title field of the Alt Text dialog box

Alternatively, you may use the Microsoft Word 2010 Accessibility Checker if you are using a PC.  This is unavailable on Macs.

  • Open the Word document
  • Select File > Info > Check Accessibility
  • Look for errors such as “Missing Alt Text”

Resources to Align With Standard

  • WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) provides web accessibility solutions to individuals with disabilities. Links provided will give you information about the different types of visual impairments, such as blindness, colorblindness and low vision and how to make the web more accessible to users with visual disabilities.

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