Welcome to another post in our series focusing on enhancing Word accessibility to ensure Section 508 compliance. Today, we explore the importance of adding alternative text to images and non-text elements to ensure Word accessibility.
Word Accessibility and Section 508 Compliance
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. This includes documents created in Microsoft Word. Ensuring all images and non-text elements have alternative text added is yet another best practice for Word accessibility.
Understanding the Importance of Alt Text
Alt text is a descriptive text added to an image in a document. It’s crucial for those who cannot see the image, as it provides a textual representation of the visual content. This is particularly important for users of screen readers, as it helps them understand the context and content of images within a document.
Adding Alt Text for Section 508 Compliance
The context in which an image is used plays a critical role in determining appropriate alt text. As authors, we must assess whether an image is merely decorative or carries essential information. Alt text should be concise yet descriptive, providing clarity without overwhelming the user with unnecessary details.
Let’s explore some practical examples to understand how to effectively use alt text for images and non-text elements in Word documents:
1. Describing Contextual Images
Example: An image of ‘The Undertaker’, a famous wrestling character.
Alt Text: “The Undertaker, a character from wrestling, who dominated the ring for over 30 years, wearing his famous attire: a black trench coat, black hat, and black gloves, doing his signature taunt.”
Rationale: This alt text provides a detailed description of the image, including the context of The Undertaker’s significance in wrestling history.
2. Handling Decorative Images
Example: An icon of two people wrestling.
Alt Text Decision: Marked as decorative.
Rationale: If the image doesn’t add contextual value or information to the document, it’s better to mark it as decorative. This prevents cluttering the screen reader with unnecessary information.
3. Images Containing Text
Example: An image containing the word “Wrestling.”
Alt Text Options: Either describe the text or mark it as decorative, depending on context.
Rationale: If the text within the image is crucial for understanding the document, include it in the alt text. Otherwise, it can be marked as decorative.
Best Practices for Alt Text in Word Documents
- Be Descriptive and Concise: Focus on conveying the essence of the image without being overly verbose.
- Consider the Document’s Context: Tailor the alt text to the document’s purpose and the image’s role within that context.
- Use Alt Text for Essential Images: Ensure that images conveying critical information have alt text.
- Mark Decorative Images Accordingly: Avoid overloading assistive technology users with irrelevant information.
Providing meaningful alternate text for images in Microsoft Word documents is a significant step toward Section 508 compliance and overall digital accessibility. By carefully considering the context and content of each image, we can create documents that are inclusive and accessible to everyone, including those using assistive technology.
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