Informative or Decorative?
Before you learn to apply best practices to visual content in your course, you first want to discern whether the images are informative or decorative.
Essential to understanding content or the purpose of the page.
Example: Chart. This an informative chart that I’ve embedded into a PowerPoint slide as picture file (.jpg). Seeing the chart is necessary for a student to understand the content of this page.
Non-essential to understand the content or purpose of the page.
Example: Icon. This icon is a decorative visual element that is aligned before the text, “Do Your Best Work”. Seeing the icon is not necessary for a student to understand the content of this page.
Informative Visual Content
This type of visual content requires the use of alternative text (also known as “alt tags” and “alt descriptions”). This text helps screen-reading tools describe visual content to visually impaired students.
Decorative Visual Content
This type of visual content should be marked as decorative (when the option is available). When an image is marked as decorative, that cues a screen reader to skip over it rather than reading it’s alternative text.
Referred to as “alt text”, this is text associated with an image that can be read aloud by a screen reader. Alt text enables visually impaired students to access information provided by an image and understand the purpose of the image.
Other benefits of alt text?
- Indexed by search engines
- Displays on a page if the image fails to load
Follow the guides below to learn how to add alt text or make images decorative in your materials. Keep in mind that the “decorative” option is not available on all platforms (e.g., Google Sheets and Google Docs).
Before you add an image to your instructional material(s), check the file name. Sometimes we save files as arbitrary names, (ex. image001.jpg). Rename the file to something meaningful, (ex. Image of President Roosevelt). The file name will populate as the auto alt text for many platforms, saving you time in writing or editing alternative text.