Descriptions for non-text content

Provide appropriate descriptions for all informative non-text content

Alternative descriptions are required for all types of images, charts, graphs, and other informative non-text (visual) content. These elements are not as useful for individuals with visual disabilities.

These descriptions, or alt text, are read aloud by assistive technology with text-to-speech functionality.

The alt text should succinctly describe the purpose of the image in the fewest possible words, ideally fewer than 15. If the image is purely for decoration and serves no informative purpose, alternative text is not necessary.

Alternative descriptions can be provided in multiple ways:

  • using the built-in function in authoring software
  • in the text of the document itself
  • as a caption below the content
  • using an external resource (e.g., web link, appendix, or other document).


To add alternative text descriptions for common types of non-text content (e.g., images, SmartArt, charts, etc.) using Office applications:

  1. Open the context menu or right-click on the image
  2. Select Format Picture (Word and PowerPoint) or Format chart area (Excel)
  3. Then select the Layout & Properties button (Word and PowerPoint) or Size & Properties button (Excel)
  4. Choose Alt Text
  5. Add the appropriate alternative text only in the Description field (not the Title field)

Note: when describing charts, include the type of chart, axes and parameters, and contextual information.

Alt text and description fields in the Format Picture panel
Add alt text in the Format picture menu