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Digital Accessibility

Step-by-Step Instructions for Writing Alt Text

Writing effective alt text can seem difficult at first, but if you follow these steps to analyze your images and understand what they're communicating, it will become much easier.

How to Write Clear, Descriptive Alt Text

Most of the time, you will need to write alt text for each and every image you publish online. It's important that your alt text is clear and descriptive to effectively communicate the visual information in the image.

1. Examine the image closely.

Think about everything that's happening in the image. What visual information is it conveying? What information would you not have if you could not see this image?

2. Consider information implied by the image beyond the objective visuals.

Is the image implying a mood, feature, or activity not mentioned elsewhere on the screen where it will appear?

3. Don't begin with "Image of..." 

A screen reader will tell the person listening to your alt text that this is an image. However, do mention if your visual is a particular type of image like an illustration, headshot, infographic, collage, etc. 

4. Include any and all words in the image.

It's best to avoid using images with text embedded in them. However, if words are part of your visual, you must include all of them in your alt text. As you can probably imagine, the more words in your image, the longer your alt text will have to be.

5. Determine if the layout is communicating meaning.

For images like infographics, where the image's composition makes a difference in what's being communicated, you'll need to explain that layout and its meaning in your alt text.

Finding Images with Pre-Written Alt Text

Some royalty-free stock photo sites provide pre-written alt text. You will still need to check that the alt text is accurate and descriptive before using it. 

Unsplash in particular does a good job providing ready-to-go alt text for images.



Example: Alt Text Steps in Action 

  • A group of students play sand volleyball on a sunny day in warm weather attire. A linked header below the image says Get in the Game with text below: Whether it's a quick workout at the Strom, a trip with the Surfing Club or a Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, you'll find plenty of ways to get moving.

    What would be the alt text for this image?

    We used the steps on this page to write clear, descriptive alt text for a photo depicting one facet of student life at the University of South Carolina.

Adding Alt Text in Specific Platforms

The way you'll add alt text to your images will depend on the tool or platform you're using to publish digital content.


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