Images of Text

Example 1: Styled text with decorative effect

This following image is used to convey a slogan text with decorative effects.

Using an image

Previously it was not possible to create such text using CSS styling that would be rendered consistently across browsers, which is why images of text were used. The text alternative for this image is the same as the slogan presented in the image: “Your access to the city”. The decorative effects (stylized text and shadow) are not be described because they are not relevant.

Using CSS3

The visual effects in the above image can be produced using CSS3 and an embedded font. Authors and developers that have to support older browsers may find the image example useful if a less styled fallback text isn’t an option.

The following image is the logo for the Web Accessibility Initiative. It is not part of a link, so the text alternative is “Web Accessibility Initiative”. There’s no need to mention that it is a logo.

Example 3: Mathematical expressions

Historically, math expressions have often been presented as images because of the difficulty of presenting equations and special math symbols with HTML. However, MathML is emerging as the preferred presentation of accessible math on the Web.

Using images

The image below displays a recurring decimal number (decimal numbers that never end). The alt text for this recurring number is “0.3333 recurring. (In the image, the recurrence is indicated by a line over the ‘3’ in the fourth decimal place.)”

In this particular example, the way that the recurrence is shown is important, so it is also described in the text alternative. As with other images, the author is in the best position to determine what information is intended to be conveyed by the image and construct the text alternative accordingly.

Using MathML

Images of math expressions should only be used in exceptional circumstances – for example when the expression is an exception to the regular content of the page or website. The preferred method for displaying math expressions is MathML, which can present mathematical expressions semantically.

If math forms are a substantial part of the content (for example, for online maths courses), MathML should be used instead. MathML represents both presentation and content semantically, making it potentially more accessible to a wider range of users.

The simple example of the recurring number illustrates the difficulty of describing both the content and presentation in mathematical expressions succinctly and clearly. Specifically, it is cumbersome to describe the position and location of the over-line representing recurrence, though it is important for some classroom settings. For more complex expressions or equations, text alternatives for images are unlikely to provide sufficient detail succinctly. MathML helps provide such semantics within the code rather than as text.