Accessible Images in Microsoft Office

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How to make Images Accessible?

Images are a really great instructional resource, but what if the student can’t see the image?

Luckily we have a couple tricks we can do to make images accessible. The minimum requirement is that all images have alt text (or alternative text), which is a piece of code that provides a description to users who cannot see the image.

For complex images, we might have to use surrounding text, which is just simply text in the body of the document or page that describes the image in greater detail.

Alt text and surrounding text (if needed) should provide:

  • Context – What is the image of? Why is it important? What instructional objective or concept should the student gain from this image? Keep in mind this will depend on the image itself as well as how it is used. For example, a painting of Napoleon might have different alt text in a history course versus what it would have in a painting class. Always go back to why you are using the image, and what learning objective it is accomplishing.
  • Function – Is the image a link? Or does clicking on the image do an action?

How to add alt text in Microsoft Office?

To add alternative text to images in your office documents, left-click on an image to select it. Then, if you’re on the desktop version of a Microsoft Office, click on the “Picture Format” tab. If you’re on the online or web versions of Microsoft Office, this tab will be called “Picture”.

screenshot of Microsoft Word desktop app, format picture tab is highlighted
Desktop Version
screenshot of web app, picture tab is highlighted
Web version

Next, click on “ALT TEXT” from the Ribbon Menu. to enter the description for the image. The title field is optional!

in the desktop version of word, the alt text option is highlighted
Desktop Version


on the web version of Microsoft Word, the alt text option is highlighted
Web Version

Then, enter the description for the image. The title field is optional!

screenshot showing the alt text menu and highlighting the description box

Example of Surrounding Text

The following is an example of an image that has surrounding text and alt text, remember the alt text is normally invisible:

Image with Surrounding Text and Alt Text
Painting of Napoleon I on a throne

In 1806, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres created a painting that was a recreation of Napoleon I during his enthronement.

ALT TEXT: Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne

Keep in mind, your surrounding text and ALT Text should always focus on the learning objective or why you are using the image.

Video Overview

The following video from Microsoft, discusses about how to create accessible images in documents:

© Microsoft Corporation


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