Accessible Documents – Illustrations/Images


Accessible doesn’t mean not having any images! Some images are very useful for greater understanding! You’ll want to add alt text for all meaningful items added by Illustrations.

Images (including Pictures, Charts, etc.) are found in the Illustrations area of the Insert tab.

Screenshot of Word 2013 Insert tab - Tables and Illustrations areasOnce you’ve inserted an image, you can get to the Picture Tools Format ribbon tab by clicking on the image. (This is another “contextual ribbon tab,” like the ones used with Tables.)

Screenshot of Word 2013 Picture Tools Format tab


The easiest layout for images (for page reflow and for screen readers) is in line with text; however, this doesn’t mean you can’t use other options. It just creates a bit more re-positioning work later if you edit the document, and you’ll need to double check the reading order once you’ve converted your document to PDF.

Once you’ve inserted your image, click on the image > Picture Tools Format > Position > In Line with Text. (Alternately, you may right click on the image > Wrap Text > In Line with Text.)

Screenshot of Word 2013 Picture Tools Format tab with Position options - In Line with Text is highlightedIf your image is a chart, click on the chart > Chart Tools Format tab > Position > In Line with Text.

Adding Alt Text

You may access the Format Picture pane via various options in the Adjust area of the Picture Tools Format tab. However, the easiest way to access your image formatting options is to use right click.

Right click on the image > Format Picture:

Screenshot of Word 2013 right click menu with Format Picture option highlightedOnce you see the Format Picture pane, click on the Layout & Properties icon. Then, expand the Alt Text so that you can see the Title and Description fields. Add a meaningful description of the image in the Description field.

Screenshot of Word 2013 Format Picture pane with the Alt Text option and "Add meaningful description here" in the Description fieldBe sure to write meaningful, concise alt text (content and function). Avoid writing “image of”- the screen reader will already announce that it’s a graphic.

The text you include in the Description field is what a screen reader will read aloud. This is also the text that will appear when visual users hover over an image once you’ve converted the document to PDF. This is helpful for visual users who may not know what the image is depicting.

Note: If an image does not have alt text, a screen reader will typically announce “blank” or something about the physical size of the graphic. This is very confusing because the person will not know if there is any important information being conveyed or not.



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