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Text-based alternatives to visual media

When using non-text content in your web pages – e.g. images, video, audio, PowerPoint slides – you should provide a text-based alternative. Text can be rendered into other forms people need, such as audio, large print, Braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

“‘Text’ refers to electronic text, not an image of text. Electronic text has the unique advantage that it is presentation neutral. That is, it can be rendered visually, auditorily, tactilely, or by any combination. As a result, information rendered in electronic text can be presented in whatever form best meets the needs of the user. It can also be easily enlarged, spoken aloud so that it is easier for people with reading disabilities to understand, or rendered in whatever tactile form best meets the needs of a user.” (Guideline 1.1, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0)

Add image description (alt text)

  1. Go to the page where you want to insert an image.
  2. Add an image to the page.
  3. In the Image picker window, enter a description in the Image description field:

    Image picker window with image description field highlighted

  4. The text in the Image description field populates the image's ‘alt’ (alternative) text in the page HTML. For example:

    <img src="logo1.png" alt="Athena SWAN Bronze Award logo" />

    Alt text:

    • is read aloud by assistive technology (e.g. JAWS screen reader) to make images' content and function accessible
    • appears in place of the image if the image file does not load or the user has turned off images in their browser
    • enables search engines to understand what information is in the image

Edit image description

  1. Go to the page containing the image you want to change the description of.
  2. Go to Edit > Edit centre content (or Edit > Edit right content).
  3. Right-click the image in the visual editor and choose Insert/Edit image.
  4. In the Insert/Edit image window, change the description in the Image description field.
  5. Select the Update button.
  6. When you have finished editing, select the Publish button in the toolbar.

Note: To review a page for missing image descriptions, browse to the page and then select Edit > More > Current site tab > Check page content for errors.

Text-based alternatives for other visual media

When you add other visual media your pages – video or audio, for example – you should include captions or text-based representations wherever possible. These can take the form of:

  • Captions (sub-titles) in video
  • Transcription of video or audio in a text file (e.g. see Google's advice on how to make transcripts for YouTube)
  • Text of a PowerPoint presentation in a separate text file or PDF document


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