SNHU Instructional Support Services

How to create Alternative Text


What is an Alternative text

Alternative text is commonly referred to as "alt text", "at attributes", "alt descriptions", or "alt tags".  It is the first principle to providing accessibility support. Alternative text describes an image that allows students, staff, and faculty who are blind or have low vision to get the same information as students, staff, and faculty who can see the image. However, writing alt text is more of an art than a science. There is no straightforward formula for how to write it. This guide will identify some key concepts to keep in mind and provide prompts for writing alt text.

Alternative Text for Images

Images can be given appropriate alternative text in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. This alt text is read by a screen reader in a Word file and should remain intact when exporting to HTML or PDF.

Add alt text to the following:

  • Shapes
  • Pictures
  • Charts
  • Diagrams
  • SmartArt
  • Clip Art
  • Tables
  • Screenshots
  • All Other Objects

How to add Alt Text (Windows 2016 Desktop)

  1. Right-click on the image and choose Format Picture.
  2. Select the Layout & Properties icon and choose Alt Text.
  3. Enter appropriate alt text only in the Description field (not the Title field).
The box to add alt. text highlighting the alt. text icon and the description box has “alternative text here.”

How to add Alt Text (Microsoft 2019)

  1. Right-click an image
  2. Select Edit Alt Text
  3. The Alt Text pane 
Edit Alt Text (Microsoft 2019).  With the "edit alt text..." boxed in red.

How to add Alt Text from Browser (Microsoft O365 Online View)

Word document with two pandas eating bamboo. Life side panel open with alt. text box The word picture, alt. text, and text panel highlighted.

NOTE: These exact instructions may vary depending on what software you are in, but they are usually similar.

Be specific when describing the image

When using an image that provides a contextual purpose in a handout, be sure to add Alt Text to the image. This will allow students, staff, and faculty who use screen readers to understand what information you convey.

An article about what to include in alt. text can be found with the following What is Good Alt. Text?

For example, the image below is tagged as "Southern New University Logo"

Southern New University Logo spelled out.
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