[Athen] Alt text for instructions with screenshots

Robert Beach rbeach at KCKCC.EDU
Tue Sep 25 13:03:24 PDT 2018

Amen! What she said!

Robert Lee Beach
Assistive Technology Specialist
Kansas City Kansas Community College
7250 State Avenue
Kansas City, KS 66112
Phone: 913-288-7671
Email: rbeach at kckcc.edu<mailto:rbeach at kckcc.edu>

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of chagnon at pubcom.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 2:59 PM
To: 'Access Technology Higher Education Network' <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] Alt text for instructions with screenshots

We create a lot of instruction materials, especially for software.

As long as the steps are detailed in the live body text and they give full instructions about the action the user must perform, we then put "lite" Alt-text on the screen capture itself.

Example: Body text instructions give detailed steps on how to bold text in MS Word.

Alt-text on the accompanying screen capture could be: "Screen capture of how to bold text as described in the body text."

All users need to have full instructions in the body text. But only sighted users need the screen captures; the screen caps do little more than give a way-finding visual to reassure sighted users that this is what the screen should look like.

They, and all other users, should still get the detailed instructions from the body text, not the graphic which often is too small, fuzzy, or difficult to see fine details.

If the instructions are repeated on the screen capture as well as in the body text, then you run the risk of having redundant information...and that's a royal pain to those using screen readers.

-Bevi Chagnon
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Bevi Chagnon, founder/CEO | Bevi at PubCom.com<mailto:Bevi at PubCom.com>
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From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu>> On Behalf Of Christine Robinson
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 10:20 AM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu<mailto:athen-list at u.washington.edu>>
Subject: [Athen] Alt text for instructions with screenshots

Hi all -

For our campus, I'm tasked with creating instructions for various elements in Office 365. Obviously, I want to make the instructions accessible - and I haven't dealt with this kind of thing before.

My instructions include steps such as (for example) "In the upper left corner of the Office 365 window, click the icon for the App Launcher," followed by a screenshot with the icon circled.

It seems like the alt text should not be a description of the screenshot, however. I suspect a screen reader user doesn't really care what the icon looks like. Since alt text is supposed to convey the same information that a sighted user would obtain from an image, it makes sense to me that the alt text should offer instructions on how to accomplish the same result using keyboard commands.

For example, if my text instructions say, "in the upper left corner, click the icon..." perhaps the alt text for the image should say something like, "Tab to the icon for the App Launcher." ???

So my questions for you all are:

1. Is it correct that, in this case, alt text should provide instructions on how to navigate to the icon instead of a description of the image?
2. Where can I find more instructions re. using Office 365 features via keyboard commands? I've searched on the Microsoft site but haven't succeeded in finding anything.


Christine Robinson | Technical Trainer/Writer | Center for Teaching Excellence
Georgia Gwinnett College | 1000 University Center Lane| Lawrenceville, GA 30043

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