Images & Visual Content

Whether you use images in your PowerPoint, course shell, or another piece of instructional material, we want to make sure that those with vision impairments can get the information out of them as well.

On this page, images also refers to all visual content you may be using or embedding, such as shapes, videos, graphics, and even charts and graphs, if they are being shared as a picture file (e.g, .jpg, .png).

Icon used to represent the option to "insert an image" on various platforms (for example, Word and Canvas".
Icons made by Freepik from

Informative or Decorative?

Before you apply this ADA best practice to the visual content in your course, first you need to discern whether or not the images are informative or decorative.


Essential to understanding content, concepts, or the purpose of the page.


Chart. This an informative chart that I’ve embedded into a PowerPoint slide as picture file (.jpg).

Screenshot of a PowerPoint slide with an informative visual element.


Non-essential to understand the content or purpose of the page.


Icon. This icon is a decorative visual element that is aligned before the text (“Do Your Best Work”). The icon is not necessary for a student to understand this section of the page.

Screenshot of decorative visual element.

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.


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).

PowerPoint Logo

Adding alternative text in PowerPoint

Google Slides Logo

Adding alternative text in Google Slides.

Microsoft Word Logo

Adding alternative text in Word.

Google Docs Logo

Adding alternative text in Google Docs.

Adobe PDF Logo

Adding alternative text in a PDF.

Canvas Logo

Adding alternative text in your course shell.


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.