August: Alt Text

What is Alt Text?

  • When you include an image in a document or a website, it is important to provide a written description of the image.  This description is called alternative text or alt text for short. 
  • For those with limited or no sight, they will not be able to understand or make use of the image's qualities, and adding alt text provides this information to them.
  • For example, if you want to use an image of a lake and don’t provide alt text, a non-sighted user will hear “IMG” as a description or possibly nothing.


Redhead Mine Lake, an abandoned water filled mine.
  • Here are some examples of alt text for this image
    • Good (Bad) Alt Text: A lake
    • Better Alt Text: Water-filled pit on a sunny day
    • Best Alt Text: Redhead Mine Lake, an abandoned water filled mine.

Tips for writing great alt text

  • Make it short, succinct, but descriptive
  • Context matters. Alt text for the same image could be written in different ways, depending on what is in the accompanying text.
  • If the image contains text, include all the text in the image.
  • You don’t need to say “Image of” or “Picture of” - a Screen Reader will do that work for you. 

What if I can’t use alt text?

  • Some programs, such as our email suite GMail, do not allow for alt text. As the next best alternative, we suggest either:
    • Not including the image in your email
    • Linking to a source document that contains an alt tag
    • Writing a short, pithy description below the image
  • Abstract images (flourishes, dots, decorations) are hard to describe with Alt text. As an alternative experts recommend either:
    • Deleting the image as it is extraneous
    • Mark the item as “decorative”

Where can I learn more about Alternative Text and digital accessibility?