Alternative Text for Images and Non-text Elements in Microsoft Word |Section 508 for Word

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.

Video Guide

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.

An example of how to add alt text to an image in Microsoft Word.

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.

An example of how to add alt text to an image containing text, in Microsoft Word

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.
MS word guides, videos, and instruction links

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.

I can be your accessibility expert. For more detailed insights, tutorials, and in-depth discussions on accessibility and related topics, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel: The Accessibility Guy on YouTube. Subscribe for regular updates!

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Microsoft Word for Beginners

Video Overview Transcript of video Today we’re going to be covering the basics of Microsoft Word. If this is your first time to the accessibility guide channel, you should know…

Making Your Bilingual Microsoft Word Table Accessible in PDF


Welcome to the Accessibility Guy channel! In today’s post, we will be discussing how to convert a bilingual table created in Microsoft Word, which uses both English and Spanish, into a PDF while ensuring that it remains accessible. If you find this helpful, don’t forget to like and subscribe for more content on accessibility.

Video Overview

Step 1: Saving the Word File and Creating a PDF

To begin, save your Word file, which should have an accessible table with English, Spanish, and some PNG checkboxes. Next, under the Acrobat tab, select “Create PDF” and save the file. Since the table was already accessible in Microsoft Word, it should mostly transfer over to the PDF as accessible.

Step 2: Checking the Tags Panel

After converting the table to a PDF, open the tags panel on the far left side of the page to check if the table has been tagged properly. If you see a section tag and a blank p tag, you will need to make some adjustments to ensure the document is accessible.

Step 3: Making the Document Accessible

First, change the section tag to a document tag by right-clicking the section tag, selecting “Properties,” typing in the word “document,” and clicking “Close.” This will help the PDF pass PDF UA and WCAG accessibility standards. Next, change the blank p tag to an artifact by right-clicking the empty container and selecting “Change Tag to Artifact.” For the artifact type, choose “Page” and click “OK.” You can then delete the p tag.

Step 4: Cleaning Up the Table Structure

Go through the table cells to ensure proper formatting, and use the table editor to adjust table headers if necessary. Remove any blank p tags by right-clicking and changing the tag to an artifact. This process will help clean up the table structure, making it more accessible.

Step 5: Running the Accessibility Checker

Once the table structure is in place, run the accessibility checker to identify any issues that may still need to be addressed. In the case of the example provided, the nested alternate text failed. To resolve this, remove the alt text from the path tag, which should resolve the issue.

Step 6: Fixing Missing Alt Text

You can fix missing alt text by using the accessibility checker panel. Right-click on the issue and select “Fix” to add the alt text. Ensure that your alt text is descriptive and helpful for users.

Step 7: Verifying the Spanish Text

Make sure that the Spanish text has been properly recognized. To do this, select the Spanish text and use the “Find Tag from Selection” option. Right-click the p tag and ensure the language setting is correct.

Step 8: Final Checks

Save your file and run the accessibility checker one last time to ensure that everything is in order. If any issues remain, address them accordingly. In the example provided, the title was missing and was fixed by right-clicking and selecting “Fix.”


In this tutorial, we went through the process of converting a bilingual table in Microsoft Word into a PDF while ensuring its accessibility. Although there may be some challenges and bugs along the way, the final result should be a fully accessible PDF document that meets PDF UA and WCAG standards. Thank you for joining us on this journey, and don’t forget to like and subscribe for more accessibility content!

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