How Do I Know If an Image Needs Alt Text?

February 7, 2022

Providing alternative text (alt text) to images is one of the most effective ways to immediately make content more accessible. Not all images need alt text, though — so how can you decide?

What images need alt text?

Generally, an image needs alt text if it:

  • Adds information or context to the content.
  • Is hyperlinked or serves as a control.
  • Includes legible text.
  • Is an important brand or strategic element.

What images do not need alt text?

Generally, an image does not need alt text if it is:

  • Pure decoration and provides no information.
  • Already described on the page in text.
  • A background image and not the primary content.

Why does it matter if an image has alt text?

Alt text for non-text content is one of the foundations of digital accessibility. When alt text is properly associated with an image, the contents and purpose of the image are made available to everyone.

Individuals who use a screen reader, as well as people for whom images do not load, are provided a text equivalent of the image. Conversely, when an image does not have alt text associated with it, information becomes dependent on visual display — a major accessibility violation.

More resources for great alt text

Here to help

Getting alt text right is critical to ensuring all your website visitors have a great experience. Of course, it is only one aspect of accessibility compliance. If we can help you better understand how accessibility guidelines apply to your website or for information on our audit services, contact us.

We look forward to helping you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance.

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