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Using images, diagrams, graphs and tables accessibly

Using images, diagrams and graphs

When using images, diagrams and graphs, include a brief written description of the image, to help those who are blind or vision impaired engage with the material.

Consider these tips.

  • Some software programmes offer accessibility features for images. For example, Microsoft uses Alt Text, which allows the writer to include a title and description of the image. The screen reader reads the title of the image and allows the person to choose whether or not to hear the content of the description. Alt Text is accessed by right clicking on the picture, selecting Format Picture, then selecting Alt Text.
  • When you are presenting in person, describe images verbally. Do not tell the whole room that this is for the benefit of a particular person or people who are blind or who have a vision impairment.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 and Acrobat Pro (and some other programmes) have an ‘Accessibility Checker’ feature that will check a document for accessibility issues. Note that it may not check for all potential issues (eg, it cannot check for colour contrast).

An example of an image and description

Photo with description following.
This is a photograph of a young man in his wheelchair on the Wellington waterfront with distant people walking in the background. The man’s attention is focused past the camera at whatever he is moving towards.

Using tables

Information provided in table formats is sometimes incompatible with screen reader software. Tables are also difficult when you are producing large print documents – in this case, think about other ways to present the same information without a table.

Consider these tips.

  • Use a table only for presenting data, rather than for design/layout purposes.
  • Do not merge cells or split cells, as screen readers are unable to interpret this information accurately.
  • Keep tables simple to understand by including one piece of information per cell.
  • Avoid using blank cells for formatting purposes, as this can be misleading.
  • When using Microsoft Word, use the bookmark feature for tables; this enables people using screen readers to effectively navigate the document. To do this, put the cursor in the top right-hand box of the table, click ‘insert’, then type a bookmark name (eg, ‘title1’) and click ‘add’. Different bookmark names are needed for each table.
  • Where available use programmes’ ‘Accessibility Checker’ features, as described in ‘Using images, diagrams and graphs’ above.
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