Writing Good Alt Text

Handouts Media

Presented at 9:15am in Westminster II on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.



  • Gaeir Dietrich, Access Specialist, Consultant
  • Robert Beach, Assistive Technology Specialist, Kansas City Kansas Community College

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Descriptions of graphics in electronic documents are required for accessibility, but what does it mean to write a good alternate text description? We will focus on the purpose of the graphic, what descriptive text to include to fit that purpose, and tips to keep it concise.


Graphics in electronic documents require text descriptions in order to be accessible, but how do you know what to say and how much to say? This session will focus on determining the purpose of the graphic—informational or decorative. We will discuss what to do when graphics are decorative only. Informational graphics require more thought, and we will offer guidelines on how to write a clear and concise description that focuses on the purpose of the graphic in context. We will also consider why a shorter alt text description may be better than a longer alt text description.


  1. Determining the purpose of the graphic is key to description
  2. All graphics need to be labeled, but not all graphics need to be described
  3. Tips for writing better descriptions

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Gaeir Dietrich

Gaeir Dietrich is a nationally recognized expert in the field of alternate media, assistive technology, and Section 508 compliance. Gaeir has served on advisory boards for the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), Bookshare, the DIAGRAM Center, the Alternate Text Production Center (ATPC), and the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center. In 2010-2011, she served as the chair for the federal Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education.

Robert Beach

Robert Beach has been the Assistive Technology Specialist at Kansas City Kansas Community College since January of 1994. He is a member of AHEAD and ATHEN. He currently serves on the ATHEN Executive Board as a Member at Large Representative and on the Advisory Council for the Assistive Technology for Kansans Project. He has presented several sessions at previous Accessing Higher Ground conferences as well as other regional and national conferences.


PowerPoint Slides: Writing Good Alt Text Reference document: A PICTURE IS WORTH 300 WORDS