Join Chad Chelius for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding alternative text in InDesign, part of Creating Accessible PDFs (2014).
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Alternative text provides a contextual description for images that displays as a tool tip in Acrobat, but more importantly is spoken when someone is reading the document using a screen reading device. InDesign provides a way to add alternative text that appear in an exported PDF file. Now I'm beginning this video with the Alternative Text InDesign file already open on my computer. Now before I do anything in InDesign, I'm going to go to the File menu and I'm going to export a PDF so that we can see what we have right now.
So I'll just put this on my desktop; I'm going to use my accessible PDF pre-set that we created earlier. I'll go ahead and export that to my desktop. Now in Acrobat, if I go to the tools pane and I run the full accessibility checker, you're going to notice it if I open up the alternate text category, and under the figures section, you're going to notice that I have 5 figures that fail the accessibility checker because they have no alternative text and if I click on these, it's going to show me which one its identifying.
So all of these photos and these 2 logos are not passing because they don't have any alternative text. So I'm going to go ahead and close that. Now back in InDesign. InDesign has added a great feature to help us add alternative text to our images. And so what I'm going to do, is I'm going to click on the Roux logo right here, and I'm going to go to the Object menu under Object Export Options. Now this Dialog box is used for a number of things, both for tagged PDF, but also for ePub and HTML.
But the alternative text applies to all 3. So in the All Text field, what I can do is, you can that see by default it's going to pull it from the structure which is the default and as we saw before, doesn't really grab anything. Now if I click in the Drop-down menu, we have some other choices. Now one of them is Custom, and this allows me to click in here and type the text that I want to appear. So I'm going to go ahead and type Roux logo. And I'm going to go ahead and click the done button, and I think I'm going to do the same for this one, just go to object, object export options, we'll choose Custom, and then I'll do the same thing here, Roux logo.
Now there really is a art I would say to writing good alternative text because you want to be able to describe the image in context. Now for a logo, there's not a whole lot you can do, but for an image, you, you don't want to say, you know, boy. You know, you want to say something like you know, student with a camera, standing, smiling at the camera type of thing. Again the goal of this video is not to teach you how to write the text, but how to, how to add it into a document.
So a lot of times I feel that something like that lends itself more to someone in an editorial role. But I'm just going to go ahead and click done here. Now that's the, the one way that we can add alternative text, but let's take a look at this from a workflow perspective because I just got done saying that you know somewhat in an editorial role would be much better at doing this than say probably a designer. So I'm going to select this photo and I'm going to go to the Links panel, which is where this photo is identified and I'm going to right click on that image and choose reveal in Bridge.
And Bridge is a great application for organizing your photos but also for viewing the metadata of an image. So I have this image selected. Let me go ahead and make that thumbnail a little bit bigger here. And so you can see, we have that image selected. It's a Photoshop document. But if I come over here to the Metadata panel, you can see that if I scroll down a little bit under the IPTC core section, there are some Metadata fields that I can use to add useful information about the photo.
Now it just so happens that the other photos in this document have useful information in the description field of the image. So as I scroll down a little bit, if I find one of these other photos, let me find the photo of this guy. You can see we have a description here and same thing for here. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go over to InDesign and with this image selected, I'm go to the Object menu. Choose Object > Export options. But in the all text area instead of choosing custom, you're going to notice that I can choose the description field that we were just looking at for that photo.
So, XMP stands for Extensible Metadata Platform and that's essentially what we were using over there in the bridge. So I'm going to choose Description and look at that, it's pulling that content in from that photo. How easy is that? So we'll go ahead and scroll down and I'm going to do the same thing for these other photos. There we go, and one more. So if you think about this from a bigger picture, from a workflow perspective, you know I just got done saying that you know the designer or the person remediating this document may not be the, that right person to write that alternative text.
But in a workflow, you could have the person who's supposed to do that, add the metadata into the photo which in turn you can pull in through InDesign. So let's take a look at what this looks like if I export this document back to a PDF replacing the old one, and use my preset here. And real quickly, I'll just run the full check, let's see if it passes. Sure enough, no issues with the alternate text. Now the question becomes, once you're in Acrobat, you can see when you hover over it, you can also see the alternative text, switch over to the hand tool here.
There's that one. There's the photos. So you can see the logo is not displaying it for some reason, but we did add that alternative text in there. Now the question becomes where is this located inside of Acrobat? Well, well a couple of places, if we go to the Order panel, you can see that if we look at this figure, we can click on this Option button and say show Reading Order panel and if I click on that to select it, you can right click and choose Edit Alternate Text and that will allow you to type in new text if you want to or add the text if there is none that exists.
In addition, you can go to your Tags panel and we can find the photo in the Tags panel. So here's this first figure. If I Right-Click on that, and choose Properties, you'll see that the alternate text is located right there. So I'll go ahead and close this PDF, go back to the InDesign document and the important thing that you need to do is just remember that adding alternative text is so important to provide context to users with visual impairments and it is in fact a requirement when creating an accessible PDF file.
- What is accessibility?
- Understanding the experience of users with visual impairments
- How to know if a PDF is accessible
- Creating a PDF with PDFMaker
- Adding metadata, bookmarks, and links
- Inserting alternative text
- Controlling tab and reading order from InDesign
- Creating cross-references in InDesign
- Adding tags, bookmarks, and alt text in Acrobat
- Using the Make Accessible Wizard