Writing educational alt text to support the why of learning

Presented at 2:15pm in Colorado I-J on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.



  • Laura Ciporen, Digital Content Accessibility Manager, McGraw-Hill Education

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 2-hr
  • Format: Interactive/Discussion
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


In this workshop we will discuss, and put into practice, a technique for uncovering the purpose of a given image in educational materials so as to produce image descriptions. We will start with an explanation of the thought process then cover a variety of examples from graphs to laughing children. Next is your turn! Bring in examples of images you have trouble describing and we will walk through the thought process together until you feel confident creating descriptions for any situation.


In this session we will first review a few methods for discovering whether your files from publishers or other sources have existing alt text. Then we will spend time getting familiar with how to think about the purpose an image is serving in its context and thus what information needs to be included in its description. This opening lecture/presentation portion will feature examples of many disparate types of images as well as disparate functions of images. Some examples of types of images include icons, graphs, screenshots in how-to documents, and more. We will discuss why some images that may appear decorative aren't and how to tell if an image needs a long description in addition to its alt text. We will broach the topic of describing people's appearance (its benefits and pitfalls). Once participants are comfortable with the principles of thinking about writing image descriptions, we will workshop the images that participants have brought with them. The result will not only be finely crafted descriptions for those images, but a confident ability to describe just about anything. If there is time, we will also touch on video description, both Audio Description and text alternatives to media (described transcripts).

[Please note, this session can easily be turned into a 2-hour in-conference session if preferred.]


  1. The meaning of an image in context may not be immediately obvious.
  2. Asking "why is this here?" is a powerful tool, but using it correctly takes some practice.
  3. Organizing the information in image descriptions, and doing so consistently, is essential.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Laura Ciporen

IAAP CPACC. JAWS certified. Creating inclusive content (with WCAG-based accessibility) for higher education since 2015.

Share your tricky images for the workshop!

Do you have examples of images you’re not sure how to describe or aren’t sure what is most important to describe? Submit them for discussion during the "Writing educational alt text to support the why of learning" session! Submit as many as you’d like, anonymously or with your name. We will apply the mindset presented in the session to develop good images descriptions together. Note: You are NOT committing to attending the session just by submitting images. Even if you don’t know if you will attend feel free to submit your images just in case or just because you think they are good examples and others would benefit from working through them. Google form: https://forms.gle/LDtpMiejNJPaw61V8