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Images & Alternative Text

These guides and videos provide steps to help you make your image content accessible through the creation of relevant, comprehensive, and succinct alternative text (alt-text) and long text description. For the best accessibility practices around authoring alt-text, please check out our MSU Denver Alternative Text - The Basics Guide.

To learn more join us for our Authoring Awesome Alt-Text Workshop. Our Schedule can be found on our Events and Workshops area. 

If you have a question that is not answering through the content below, please contact the Instructional Accessibility Group via email at:

Option 1:

In Canvas, the file name is the default ALT text which is usually inaccessible, but if you change the file name to the ALT text, it will always be inserted when the image is placed into Canvas content. This first option should be used for images you will not use more than once (repeating images generally means you will need to adjust the Alt-Text to reflect the shifting context)

  1. Upload your image into the Files area of your Canvas course; navigate to File to complete the rest of the steps.
  2. Rename to match your default ALT text.
    1. Hover over your file
    2. Click the three dots at the right end of the file line
    3. Click Rename
    4. Type the new name
    5. Click the check mark to save.

Option 2:

Add or Edit ALT Text in Rich Content Editor. This option is best for images whose Alt-Text needs to be adjusted for the nuanced contexts of a course/module.

  1. Open the Canvas Rich Text Editor to content which includes an image.
    1. This could be under pages
  2. Click on an image added to content to highlight it.
  3. Click Options at the top of the image to open a context window to the right.
  4. Type the Alt-Text in the box under “Alt-Text”
  5. Click Done

 The following steps explain how to place Alt-Text on a photo and provides some guidance to the content of the text.

Adding Alt-Text:
  1. Right-click on the figure and look for Edit-Alt Text.
    1. If you see Edit-Alt Text, select it and type your Alt-Text in the box that appears on the right-hand side of your document. Repeat for every image.
    2. If you do not see Edit Alt Text, follow the remaining steps.
  2. Select Format Picture; a sidebar labeled ‘Format Picture’ will appear on the right side of the screen.
  3. Click the Layout & Properties Icon
  4. Select Alt-Text from the menu on the sidebar. This will open two sections labeled ‘Title’ and ‘Description’
  5. Type the title of the figure to the appropriate line
  6. Type the Alt-Text in the box under ‘Description’.
  7. Close the sidebar by pressing the X in the upper-right corner.

You have now completed adding Alt-Text to a photo.

  1. Open the document in Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Click Edit PDF on the right-hand side of the screen.
    • This will prompt a review of the file by Optical Character Recognition Software, which will identify text, tables, and images in the document.
    • Once this operation is complete, review and correct the document to ensure full accessibility of the text.
  3. Click Tools in the upper-left corner.
  4. Click the Accessibility option at the bottom of the menu; this will bring up an additional menu on the right side of your document.
  5. Click Auto-tag Document in the Accessibility Menu to identify all images.
  6. Click Set Alternative Text; this will open an additional window with the title ‘Set Alternative Text’.
  7. Type the Alternative Descriptive Text in the small window that appears on the screen (see Tips for Writing Alt-Text at the bottom).
    • Note: If the picture is decorative, or fulfills no purpose check, the box labeled ‘Decorative Image. This will prevent the image from being read by screen readers.
  8. Click on the right arrow to move to the next image in the document.
  9. Click the Save & Close button once all images have been given alternative text.

Captions are small sentences of descriptive text that provide information about still, visual content. Captions remove the need for inference when observing material and limits the opportunity for misinterpretation.



Note: For Mac users: ‘Right-click’ by clicking with two fingers on the mouse pad; substitute ‘Command (?)’ for ‘CTRL.'

  1. Right-Click the desired image; a drop-down menu will appear.
  2. Select Wrap Text
  3. Select Tight:
    • Note: this will adjust the layout of your document. Do not move the picture. The following steps will reformat your document with minimal, if any, adjustments needed.
  4. Right-Click the desired image; a drop-down menu will appear.
  5. Select Insert Caption option; a window titled ‘Caption’ will appear in front of the text.
  6. Type the caption of the image in the ‘Caption’ line.
    • Be sure to select the appropriate label for the image: ‘Figure’ for images, ‘Equations’ for mathematics, and ‘Table’ for charts and graphics.
  7. Select the position of the caption (i.e. below or above the image).
  8. Click OK
  9. Hold the CTRL Key; click the image and the caption to select them both.
    • Note: there should be a box around the caption as well as around the image.
  10. Right-Click the image; a drop-down menu will appear.
  11. Select Group; this links the caption to the image as one item.
  12. Right-Click the desired image; a drop-down menu will appear.
  13. Select Wrap Text
  14. Select In Line with Text
  15. Adjust the layout as needed


Images and Alternative Text Guides

There guides provide distributable content that covers the above guides as well as additional Image Accessibility Content.







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