Alternate Text and Decorative Images in PowerPoint

Yes. Every image needs alternate text

Video Overview

What exactly is alternate text?

Images need accurate descriptions for students who rely on screen readers. Avoid using text-heavy photos and the description should provide enough information within the context of the topic. Keep in mind the context of the picture, which may change the scope of the needed explanation.

Images should never start with a “picture of” or “image of” as the screen reader will identify it as an image. The one exception to this rule is if the context of that information actually matters.

Is this a photography course? Is this an art course? If so, then it might be ok to use “image of” in the description.

Image Context

Image context will change based on the audience and what you want them to learn about the image. The same image could have different descriptions depending on its intent.

Special Notes

Be sure to check all images as sometimes the file name is inserted as the alternate text area. For example, jordison.png might be the default value in the alt text area for an image – be sure to spot-check all images to ensure that the file name did not get inserted.

Keep alternate text less than 100 – 150 characters. If there is more text needed – be sure to include it next to the image on the page. You can also link to a longer description using a separate document!

When do I mark an image decorative?

When images are used that do not convey any meaning and are just for visual effect, it is possible to mark these elements as decorative with the latest versions of PowerPoint. After selecting the image and opening the Alt Text panel, select the checkbox “Mark as decorative”. This has the effect of making the image “invisible” to assistive technologies.

If an image does not include any alternate text information and is not marked as decorative, then assistive technologies may try to read out a file name or will announce the presence of a graphic, but with no additional information. This has the effect of informing the student there might be content, but the student does not have access to that information.

If sufficient information is described through text and images are used, consider marking the graphics as decorative to improve screen reader readability. 

So how do I actually apply alternate text to images in PowerPoint?

  1. Right click the image
  2. Select Edit Alt text
Right click the image
Select Edit Alt text

Then, enter a description.

  1. Enter an engaging alternate text description
  2. OR – Mark as decorative
Enter an engaging alternate text description
OR - Mark as decorative

Additional Posts on PowerPoint

Outline View and Textboxes in PowerPoint

Get Your Content in Outline View

Video Walkthrough

PowerPoint Accessibility Best Practices

In order for content to be the most accessible to people who use screen readers it is recommended that all content appears in outline view of PowerPoint. Outline view shows a text-based version of the content with your file.

Additionally, the outline view offers a snapshot of all of the major content types in your presentation. It is an excellent method for organizing and chunking your information. It is also a great way to create a quickly accessible version for people with disabilities!

To view outline view

  1. Select View
  2. Select Outline view
  3. Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view
Select View
Select Outline view
Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view

Avoid using added textboxes

The textbox feature will allow you to add extra content to a slide but it might not be accessible and it will not appear in Outline View properly. Additionally, it will cause extra problems when adjusting the reading and arrange order.

How do I ensure my content is in outline view

This is purely based on using a theme and a slide template.

  1. On the home ribbon, select Layout
  2. Select the template you would like use

The last step of this process is to actually use the content boxes to place your content. Do not add additional text boxes in this step. Simply click into one of the content boxes to add the desired information. Using a template will not only add all content to the outline view, but it will also be in the correct reading order!

Additional Information

Edit the slide master theme in order to develop custom templates and ensure all the content is in order and available in outline view.