MS PowerPoint Chapter 6: Images and Other Graphics


Section 6.1: Alternative Text

All images regardless of their complexity need to have an Alt text in some way. Alt Text is a brief description of your image that is 150 characters or less. This Alt Text is meant for any image that has meaning within the context of the document. Screen readers cannot read images to the reader, so Alt text acts as a substitute. To add an Alt Text to your image,

  1. Right-click the image and select Edit Alt Text.

  2. Type the alt text in the menu that pops up to the right. Use 150 characters or less.

    A slide showing places to visit in Tokyo Japan with a photo of Tokyo and Mount Fuji at sunset.
    Alt Text: Tokyo Japan at sunset. A large red, white, and blue pagoda is next to several cherry blossom trees. Mount Fuji is in the background.
  3. If the image is decorative, write the word Decorative as the alt text (do not check the box that says "Mark as decorative").

    A powerpoint slide with a decorative image. The Alt Text panel in open to the right with Decorative in the text box.

Our decorative image has an Alt Text that says “Decorative”. The Mark as Decorative checkbox is unchecked.

This example of Alt Text fails to describe all of the details in the image.

This example of Alt Text is much better. It describes many details in the image so that the reader has a better idea of what is in the picture.

Section 6.2: Long Descriptions for Complex Images, Pie Charts, and Bar Graphs

When using complex images like pie charts or bar graphs, it is better to use a long description rather than Alt Text. Alt Text is meant to be brief, while long descriptions give you a bit more freedom to explain the image. There are many ways to create a long description including:

  • Describing the complex image in text below the image.

  • Adding a link below the complex image.

  • Providing the data from the image in text form.

Make sure the long description is visible to all users. Even if they are links, or buttons.

Additional Types of Long Descriptions

When you use complex images, you must describe it using Alt Text and have a longer description.

Section 6.3: Watermarks and Backgrounds

Watermarks and background images should not be used. They will interfere with peoples ability to read the page. Watermarks and backgrounds tend to be very distracting to most readers. It is best to use a background that does not interfere much at all with the text on the slide.

Section 6.4: Text Boxes, Shapes, and Other Floating Objects

PowerPoint differs from Word in one very significant way: floating objects are easy to navigate and make up the very nature of the entire slide. The title field in a slide, for instance, is a text box. Users just needs to hit the tab button to navigate slide and each object will be selected, announced, and the alt text (if present) will be read.

You do not need to add alt text to text boxes, since the contents are directly read by a screen reader, but you MUST add alt text to other non-text objects, including shapes and icons (and of course, images, graphs, charts, etc.).

Section 6.5: Using a Series of Shapes

A series of the same shapes or images should be grouped. They should also be given alternative text and a long description. You can group them together by right clicking each of the shapes and pressing Control G.