Software can convert text to speech, but it cannot convert images to text. To overcome this, text can be programmatically attached to an image. If you insert pictures or other images in a Word document, you must label them using the alt text (alternative text) feature in Word. A screenreader will stop on the image and read the alt text that you have written. The amount and type of description that is put into the alt text depends on the type/purpose of the image.
The information on this page introduces you to what alt text is, and how to go about describing images. For a selection of alt text samples, please visit this page: Samples of Alt text.
Alt-text is done differently for Children's Picture Books and Comics. Please visit the pages Alt-Text for Picture Books and Comic Book/Graphic Novel Description: Introduction for more information.
The W3C defines alternative text as follows:
A text alternative is text that is used in place of non-text content for those who cannot view the non-text content. Non-text content includes such things as pictures, charts, applets, audio files, etc. People who cannot see for example would not be able to see information presented in a picture or chart. A text alternative is therefore provided that allows the user to be able to convert the information (the text) into speech. In the future, having the information in text also makes it possible to translate the information into sign language, into pictures, or into a simpler form of writing.
In order for people with disabilities to be able to use this text - the text must be "programmatically determinable." This means that the text must be able to be read and used by the assistive technologies (and the accessibility features in browsers) that people with disabilities use.
It must also be possible for people using assistive technologies to find these text alternatives when they encounter non-text content that they cannot use. To accomplish this, we say that the text must be "programmatically associated" with the non-text content. This means that the user must be able to use their assistive technology to find the alternative text (that they can use) when they land on the non-text content (that they can't use).
Alt-text is required for all non-text content (i.e. images, graphs, charts, buttons, etc.) in a document. There are a variety of images that can exist in a text, and they require more or less description depending on the context and type of image.
Ask yourself the following questions when creating Alt-Text:
The below images can be removed from the text. This is suggested because none of these images convey meaning (i.e. they're decorative). Similar situations may arise. If unsure, ask the Production Coordinator.
Follow the instructions presented on this page: Extract Images from EPUB files.
Select the image and then select
clear formatting. If there was a little dot to the left of the image, then that should now be gone.
This is the same thing as breaking/removing links.
Maintain the general location of images in relation to surrounding text, but ensure that the image (and caption) are within the text (that is, the text does not flow around the image) and between paragraphs (not breaking up the middle of a sentence or paragraph).
The wrapping style should be set as in-line with text (on a Mac, right click the image, select
Wrap Text >
In Line with Text). Software can only detect and properly read the Alt text associated with an image when it is placed 'in line'.
For image description guidelines and examples, refer to:
A few tips:
On a Mac:
descriptionfield (leave the title field blank)
In rare cases, you may be describing the image without a copy of the original image in your document. This is often the case when digitizing from print.
You still need to describe the image, but also denote that the text is not part of the regular paragraph text.
Typically, you may have something similar to the following:
BEGIN IMAGE DESCRIPTION Sally picks a completely black kettle off the floor. END IMAGE DESCRIPTION
The specific words you use will differ depending on the language used in the book (e.g. figure, illustration) and whether it is a description (you wrote) or a caption.
For images that require more complex or extended descriptions, we use the Prodnote - Optional (DAISY) style. See: Producer's Note. Alt text is meant to be a brief description of the image, so as a general rule of thumb, if your description will be more than 120 words, it should be put into an in-text Producer's Note.
You must still also insert Alt text for a short version of the description.
More info on writing extended or long descriptions:
Especially in children's books, you may want to have the images as a background with the text on top.
In Line with Textunder
Wrap Text. (You can always Undo to change it back.)
You can search for all images by using the
Find function and search for
More tips on writing text descriptions for maps.
Sometimes you will come across images that are Tables, Surveys, or Images with Text, or Images of Words or Phrases. It is a big publisher no-no to put any form of text within an image, and there are a few ways we can deal with this as it comes up.
If there is an image of a table, simply recreate the table within Word following the directions in the Tables Section. Then delete the image of the table once you are done.
This one is a bit of a judgement call. It depends on the context of the image. If it’s critical to understanding the book that readers know exactly what was asked in the survey then we want to transcribe the entire survey and then add a Producer's Note at the beginning of the book to explain what we have done. Otherwise, if it doesn’t really matter to the reading experience what the details of the survey are then Alt-Text will do. There are some great examples on how to write Alt-Text here.
Example Coming Soon
Some Images will have text as part of that image. In these cases there are two solutions:
Again, this is a judgement call. Both options can work, but it also depends on what the text is. When in doubt just ask!
Example Coming Soon
A very big publisher no-no is having Single Words or Phrases as Images. This is one of the biggest accessibility sins. When this happens with must transcribe the image inline with the text, and then remove the image itself. If the image is written in another alphabet you may have to either use Unicode or set up your keyboard to type that alphabet. Please see the Languages section for more information.
Example Coming Soon
Check out these excellent tutorials on writing alternative text descriptions:
Q: If there is a photograph of a letter, should we transcribe it into the alt-text?
A: It depends on two factors that should be taken into consideration when writing alternative text (requires some judgement):
Q: For images that contain a lot of information (such as an Army record that contains a lot of text, finger prints, tables, etc.), what is recommended in terms of Alt Text?
A: Very good question! Image descriptions can be tricky. The first question I like to consider is the purpose of the image: is it decorative? for visual interest only? provide essential information? We also consider if it's adequately described in the surrounding content already.
Let's take "Shaw's US Army Record" image from Rich man, poor man as an example (below). There's a lot of text embedded within this image.
What's the purpose? This image is located at the end of the book (in the biography section) and a brief caption is provided. I haven't read the book, but I think the general purpose of the image is to give the reader a sense of what his Army record looked like, so the alternative text could describe some essential things that we can glean from the record, such as: this is his "Military Record and Report of Separation, Certificate of Service" and it contains both personal data and information about his military history.
What do I see? How much information we want to provide about his personal and military history depends on: 1) what we can actually see! (the image quality is poor, so most likely the author doesn't think it's very important that we see or know the details), and 2) what information might readers want to know that's here and isn't already in the book.
To be honest, I can't make out much information here, so I think it would be perfectly appropriate to leave out specific personal and military history details from the Alternative Text description.
For further exploration: Diagram Center is the authority on image descriptions and they have great guidelines and training material: Image Description Training