What are some graphic images

Decision-making scheme for alternative texts published in 2017

Graphics as informative pictures

Informative images require a descriptive alternative text. If the recommended 80 characters for the alternative text are not sufficient to describe an image, the following additional techniques can be used:

  • The contents of the picture are described in context. The more information is in context, the shorter the text alternative can be. If the picture is sufficiently described in context, a identifying alternative text can be used.
  • A long description is attached to the picture. As a rule, an identifying alternative text can then be used for the graphic.

It is assumed that informative images are absolutely necessary for understanding the contents. The following information relates exclusively to non-linked images with an informative character, i.e. images with informational content that are not described in the context. If informative images are linked, then these are active elements that need functional text alternatives.


First of all, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and the Barrier-free Information Technology Ordinance - BITV 2.0 provide for some exceptions for descriptive text alternatives. Identifying alternative texts are sufficient for the following graphic types (even if the contents of the page cannot be fully perceived in aids such as screen readers):

  • Images that serve a task (test, examination) and - if they were available in text form - would make the task void, only need to be identified.
  • Graphic s must be identified in the alternative text (e.g.).
  • Images that serve the visual experience (e.g. art) should include the type of content (e.g. "oil painting") as well as the name of the artist and the work in the alternative text. Further information such as style and epoch can also be useful.

Since there are an infinite number of images, only a few criteria for descriptive alternative texts can be presented here. For descriptive text alternatives, similar criteria apply as for identifying text alternatives:

  • The main content of the image is named in the alternative text.
  • The alternative text does not exceed 80 characters.
  • The alternative text is formulated as objectively as possible (unless the editorial team intends an emotional reaction from the user).
  • The alternate text indicates informative details that are out of context.


For photos, the following questions should be considered when formulating alternative texts:

  • Are visually recognizable characteristics, situations and actions named?
  • When people are shown, are they identified by name?
  • If the publication of the photo is intended to trigger certain emotions, are the emotions named?
  • If the photo cannot be described in up to 80 characters or so, is a long description provided and alternative identifying text used?

Info and other complex graphics

In the case of info graphics, screenshots or other complex graphics, the following questions should be given particular consideration:

  • Is the image type (such as "bar chart", "organization chart") named?
  • Is the essential information or context of the graphic given in the alternative text?
  • If the content of the graphic cannot be described in up to approx. 80 characters, is a long description provided and identifying alternative text used?

Font graphics

The alternative texts for text graphics, but also for posters, book covers or other graphics with text should take the following into account:

  • Are the texts shown included as completely as possible in the alternative text?
  • When the font graphics cannot be avoided, are essential visual characteristics of the graphics or the writing described?
  • If the font graphics cannot be described in up to approx. 80 characters, is a long description provided and identifying alternative text used?

Long descriptions

There are various HTML techniques for long descriptions. The essential feature of a long description is that it is linked to the graphic. Long descriptions are not automatically output by a screen reader like alternative text, but require user action in order to display them.

  1. The -Attribute for the element makes it possible to link another page or another location on the same page with the graphic. Screen readers offer mechanisms to switch to the long description.
  2. If a graphic is included in the page with an element instead of one, the long description can be stand between the opening and closing day.
  3. If the graphic is in an element:
    1. can the graphic supplemented with a link that leads to the long description on another page or another place on the same page. In contrast to the attribute, the link is accessible to all users.
    2. an element within the element can contain the long description (however, this technique not yet supported by all browsers).

Reading tips

The required reading on text alternatives includes:

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