Images and Figures in PDF documents must have alternate text

Rule ID: text-alternative-figure
Ruleset: axe-pdf 2.0
User Impact: Critical
Guidelines: WCAG 2.1 (A), WCAG 2.0 (A)

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Compliance Data & Impact

User Impact


Disabilities Affected

  • Blind
  • Deafblind
  • Mobility


  • WCAG 2.1 (A)
  • WCAG 2.0 (A)

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.1 (A)]

  • 1.1.1: MUST: Non-text Content

WCAG Success Criteria [WCAG 2.0 (A)]

  • 1.1.1: MUST: Non-text Content

How to Fix the Problem

Tag the informative image with a Figure tag and populate the Alternate Text field with a short, descriptive alternative text.

Using the Reading Order Tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro:

  1. Open the Reading Order Tool.
  2. Select the image by drawing a box around it with your cursor.
  3. Click the Figure button in the Reading Order Tool.
  4. Open the Tags Pane.
  5. Right-click the Figure tag.
  6. Select Properties.
  7. In the Tag tab, enter the alt text in the Alternate Text field. Note: If you click out of this dialog before you close it (for example, switching to a different program window), the alt text you just typed will disappear and you'll need to retype it.

Note: Adobe Acrobat Pro is the most common tool for PDF remediations, but other tools and software are also available and can be used to remediate the PDF.

Why it Matters

Screen readers have no way of translating an image into words that gets read to the user, even if the image only consists of text. As a result, it's necessary for images to have short, descriptive alt text so screen reader users clearly understand the image's contents and purpose.

If you can't see, all types of visual information, such as images, are completely useless unless a digital text alternative is provided so that screen readers can convert that text into either sound or braille. The same is true in varying degrees for people with low vision or color-blindness.

When you do not provide an acceptable alternative that works for their available sensory modalities, such as making an image accessible by providing a digital text description, screen readers cannot convert it into speech or braille to make it available by sound or touch.

Rule Description

All images must have alternate text since screen readers have no way of translating graphics into text.

The Algorithm (in simple terms)

Images/Figures in PDF documents must have alternate text


Other Resources

You may also want to check out these other resources.

Refer to the complete list of axe 2.0 rules.

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