Complex Images | Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) | W3C

Complex Images

in Images Tutorial


Complex images contain substantial information – more than can be conveyed in a short phrase or sentence. These are typically:

  • graphs and charts, including flow charts and organizational charts;
  • diagrams and illustrations where the page text relies on the user being able to understand the image;
  • maps showing locations or other information such as weather systems.

In these cases, a two-part text alternative is required. The first part is the short description to identify the image and, where appropriate, indicate the location of the long description. The second part is the long description – a textual representation of the essential information conveyed by the image. The following examples show different approaches that can be used to provide such short and long descriptions.

Page Contents

  • Long descriptions
  • Example 1: Description containing structured information
    • Approach 1: A text link to the long description adjacent to the image
    • Approach 2: Describing the location of the long description in the alt attribute
    • Approach 3: Structurally associating the image and its adjacent long description (HTML5)
    • Approach 4: Providing a link to the long description via longdesc
  • Example 2: Description containing textual information

Long descriptions

There are situations where the composition of an image is important and needs [...]

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