A figure is an image. This might be a drawing, a photograph, a screen shot or a graphic chart such as a pie chart or bar graph. Sometimes the figure is important and other times it doesn’t add anything to the document. For instance a drawing of a bowl of flowers usually will not be important and will not need to be tagged as an image (although it will need to be tagged as an artifact or background). You’ll need to make the decision as to whether or not the image is important. Most of the time, when you add tags to a document, or when they are tagged from another source such as Microsoft Word, the images will already be tagged as figures. In this case, all you’ll need to do is add alt text.
To tag content as a figure, open the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel and draw a rectangle around the content you want tagged as a figure. Then in the Touch-Up Reading Order Panel, click “Figure”. If the content is an figure with associated text, you can click “Figure/Caption” and the text will be given the caption tag within the figure tag.
After tagging the content as a figure you’ll need to add alt text. Describe the image as if you were talking to someone on the phone and had to describe an image to them and they did not have a copy in front of them. Charts and graphs will have to be described in detail and objectively. Sometimes we will get the alt text from the SME, but not very often.
Alt text for the figure above could be:
A rectangle with four line drawings. Clockwise from the upper left corner: Dog, bed, flower, ball.
Actually adding the alt text can sometimes be a little tricky, but not always. Usually if you double-click on the image you’ll see an option in the pop-up menu that says “Edit Alternate Text”.
A small text box will open up and you can type or paste your alt text into the box. There is no character limit when adding alt text. Click OK after adding the alt text.
A much more difficult alt text to write is when you’re writing alt text for a chart or graph. Unless the chart or graph is thoroughly described in the text of the document, you must write very descriptive alt text for the image. Ideally the person who wrote the original document will write the alt text, but more often than not we will need to write it.
Below is a line graph whose alt text could be
A line chart titled Figure 1 Promotional Spending by Type of Marketing Activity, 1989 to 2008. Along its horizontal axis are years running from 1989 to 2007 in increments of 3 years. Along its vertical axis are numbers 0 through 12 indicating billions of dollars. The line labeled Detailing Health Care Professionals steadily rises from 2.8 billion in 1987 to 12 billion in 2007 with a plateau between 1992 – 1995 & 2002 & 2004. The line labeled Meetings and events steadily rises from 0.7 billion in 1993 to 2.8 billion in 2008. The line labeled DTC (direct to consumer) advertising starts at 0.5 billion in 1995 and generally rises with to 4 billion in 2006 but falls to 3.8 billion by 2008.
While it seems long for alt text, there is no other way to describe an important image in an extant PDF file. Please note that the text below the file is assumed to be in text format, so does not need to be in the alt text. If it were part of the photo it would need to be included as alt text.
Below is a pie chart whose alt text could be
A pie chart titled European Parliament election, 2004 and divided into 8 wedges. Clockwise from the top of the chart the wedges and their percentages are PES – 27%, EUL – 5%, Other – 9%, UEN – 4%, EPP 38%, ELDR 9%, EDD, 2%, EFA 6%.