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Section 508 requires all images on Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) websites and applications to have alt text. Alt text describes images in words so they can be read and understood by visitors using screen readers.

Writing Alt Text

Alt text is a written description of the items, events, and text in the image. Briefly summarize the image. Most alt text should look like this:

Pair of hands holding corn stover, the unused parts of harvested corn.

Pair of hands holding corn stover, the unused parts of harvested corn.

When writing alt text, follow these guidelines:

  • Energy.gov requires alt text to be at least 20 characters long.
  • Alt text cannot be longer than 250 characters. Be concise.
  • Convey the meaning the image is conveying to the reader. You don't need to describe everything in the image or describe it in a decorative way.
  • Include all critical information, such as numbers and other data.
  • Do not duplicate information that appears in the image's caption or the content of the page. If the image itself is described elsewhere on the page, keep the alt text minimal.
  • Do not start alt text with phrases like “Photo of” or “Illustration of.” These are no longer necessary.

Adding Alt Text to Images

Follow these steps to add alt text to an image in Energy.gov:

  1. Add an image paragraph module to the page.
  2. Add the image in one of two ways:
    • If the image has not been uploaded to Energy.gov, upload the image from your computer.
    • If the image has already been uploaded, find the image in the Media Library.
  3. You must add alt text before you can save the image. Put it in the "Alt Text" field.
  4. If an image has already been added to the page, you can edit the alt text by hitting the "Edit Image" button.

Writing Captions that Complement Alt Text

If you want to add information that would benefit both sighted visitors and visitors using screen readers, put it in the caption.

Captions shouldn't duplicate the alt text. The alt text and caption should supplement each other, with the alt text written for screen readers and the captions written for all visitors.

How to Write Alt Text for Different Kinds of Images

Some images require different styles of alt text.

Linked Images

If the image is linked, describe the destination of the link in the alt text instead of describing the image.

Graphical Text

If your image only includes text, the alt text should only consist of that text. For example, if the graphic says "Wind and Hydro" the alt text should be "Wind and Hydro."

Technical Diagrams, Graphs, and Charts

If an image contains complicated data, charts, and graphs that cannot be described in 250 characters or less, you will need to create a separate HTML page—a text version—or describe all of the data in the caption or the body of the page.

If the image is too complex to describe in a text version—for example, if you have an animation, map, or other graphic with large amounts of information—provide a link to the Webmaster and the text:

If you have a disability and need assistance reading this image, please email the Webmaster.

This text should preferably be in the image's caption.

Image Maps

Image maps are only used on websites outside of the Energy.gov Drupal environment.

An image map allows you to divide an image into hotspots which can then be linked to different destinations. When developing an image map, write alt text for each link. In general, the alt text should follow the guidance for linked images. Additionally, you may want to write separate alt text for the entire image, if it adds any important information to the page.

CSS Background Images

CSS background images are only used on websites outside of the Energy.gov Drupal environment.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used to show background images that add to the aesthetic appeal of the page, but do not add any real meaning to the content. Because they do not add any meaning, these CSS background images do not require alt text. If you are using a CSS background image that does add meaning to the page, it should be coded as a regular image with alt text.