Making Images Accessible in 2024 [Easy Step-By-Step Guide]

Ensuring that your images are navigable by all users, including those with disabilities, you demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and enhance the user experience on your website or digital platform. 

Creating accessible images is essential for any professional or business owner who wants to brand themselves or their brand as inclusive and deliver content that lives up to it. 

This article will explore the distinct varieties of accessible images – complex, ornamental, and operational – and explain how each can be created with access considerations in mind. We'll also provide guidance on finding stock photo sites that prioritize accessibility features.

Additionally, we'll share some hacks for locating accessible images quickly and efficiently. Finally, our FAQ section will address common questions related to creating accessible images step by step so that you can confidently implement these best practices in your work.

What are Accessible Images?

Accessible images are visual content designed to be easily understood and interpreted by all users, including those with disabilities like vision impairment or cognitive disorders. 

Making the digital world more inclusive and usable for all is an essential task, and accessible images are one of the methods to accomplish that.

The Importance of Accessible Images

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, businesses, professionals, eCommerce stores, and other online entities must prioritize accessibility to reach a wider audience effectively. By incorporating accessible images into your website or marketing materials, you can:

www.istockphoto.com disability image collection

Key Elements of Accessible Images

To ensure that your images meet accessibility standards, consider these essential elements:

  1. Alt Text: Also known as “alternative text” or “alt attribute,” alt text is an HTML attribute used to provide a textual description of an image when it cannot be displayed or accessed by certain users. This allows assistive technology, such as screen readers, to pick up important information about the image's content. Purely decorative images (that add visual interest to content but don’t carry extra information) can be interpreted easily with appropriate text alternatives.
  2. Captioning: Captions offer additional context for complex images like graphs or charts that may not be fully described by alt text alone. The text description in the caption helps users understand intricate details within a complex image.
  • Color Contrast: Ensuring sufficient color contrast between the text and background within an image is crucial for users with low vision or color blindness. Use online tools like WebAIM's Color Contrast Checker to verify that your images meet WCAG standards for contrast ratios.
www.webaim.org contrast checker result
high contrast check result for the Shutterstock
promotional image
  • Sizing and Scalability: Images should be appropriately sized, responsive, and scalable across various devices without losing quality or causing readability issues. This guarantees that the user experience is uniform no matter what size or resolution of the screen. This is especially important for web pages and social media images

Incorporating these elements into your visual content will help you craft accessible images that graphically represent concepts and cater to all users' needs while enhancing your digital presence in today's competitive market landscape.

Crafting Accessible Images

Ensuring everyone, including those with impairments, can understand and appreciate your visuals is paramount. Follow this set of best practices to create accessible images that meet accessibility standards:

Use Alt Text for All Images

Alt text attribute is an essential aspect of creating accessible images. It provides concise yet informative text descriptions of the image for screen reader users (usually visually impaired individuals). When writing alt text, ensure it's a short description conveying the content and purpose of the image in context. For more information on writing effective alternative texts, check out WebAIM's guide on alternative text.

BONUS: Alt Text is a great SEO tool, so your website will benefit from having accurate alt text in all images. 

Add Captions and Transcripts for Multimedia Content

Provide captions for your more intricate images, those that, unlike a decorative image, are there to add information and value not included in the adjacent text. You can include a long description with the highlights of the complex information contained in the picture. 

Captions and transcripts should also be added to multimedia content, such as videos or podcasts, to ensure accessibility for those with hearing impairments. You can use services like Rev.com to generate accurate captions and transcripts efficiently. 

Choose High-Contrast Colors

Selecting colors with a high contrast ratio helps people with low vision or color-blind individuals perceive color in your design and easily distinguish between elements within an image. To ensure proper contrast levels, use online tools like WebAIM's Color Contrast Checker when designing your visuals.

www.webaim.org contrast checker result
high contrast check result for a Shutterstock
promotional image

Optimize Image Size and Resolution

To improve user experience across various devices and connection speeds, optimize your images' size without compromising their quality or resolution using compression tools or responsive web design. This will also enhance the performance of your website or app.

Demonstrate a Clear Visual Hierarchy

You can do it easily considering these main factors. 

  • Size: Emphasize important elements by making them larger than less significant ones.
  • Spatial Arrangement: Organize related items close together while separating unrelated elements.
  • Color: Use contrasting colors to highlight essential information and create visual interest.
www.canva.com background remover
Landing page showcasing Canvas background remover tool

Test Your Images for Accessibility

To ensure your images meet accessibility standards, test them using tools like the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. This will help you identify any issues in your image's alt text, color contrast, or other aspects that may need improvement.

By following these best practices when crafting accessible images, you'll enhance the user experience and demonstrate social responsibility by ensuring everyone can access and enjoy your visual content equally.

Stock Photo Sites for Accessible Images

In the digital world, finding suitable visuals is simpler than ever due to a variety of stock photo sites that provide for all sorts of requirements and tastes. These platforms offer high-quality images with a royalty-free license, ensuring you have the perfect visuals for your projects while adhering to accessibility standards. Here are some top recommendations:

a) Stockphotos.com

Stockphotos.com offers an extensive collection of royalty-free images suitable for businesses and professionals alike. With their easy-to-use search engine, you can quickly find accessible images by applying color contrast or subject matter filters. Their Club Offers have some of the lowest prices for stock images ever!

b) Shutterstock

Shutterstock, one of the most popular companies in the space, provides millions upon millions of high-resolution photos in various categories. Their advanced search options allow users to filter results based on specific accessibility requirements like image orientation or background colors. With the Shutterstock free trial, you can download up to 10 images for free!

c) iStock

iStock, owned by Getty Images, is another excellent source for accessible imagery at affordable prices. They offer exclusive content and budget-friendly options through their Signature and Essentials collections – making it simple to find the right image without breaking the bank. Our iStock free trial gives you 10 free image downloads to test it out!

d) Adobe Stock

If you're already using Adobe Creative Cloud products like Photoshop or Illustrator,
Adobe Stock integrates seamlessly into your workflow, offering a vast library of accessible images at your fingertips. Their advanced search options allow you to filter by color, composition, and more – ensuring the perfect match for your project. The Adobe Stock free trial is a great way to try it out, with up to 40 free downloads!

By using these stock photo sites, you can easily find accessible images that meet both aesthetic and accessibility requirements. Remember to always check the licensing terms before using any image in your projects to avoid potential legal issues down the line.

Hacks to Find Accessible Images

Finding and designing accessible images may seem challenging initially, but with the right tools and strategies, you can easily create engaging visuals that cater to all users. In this section, we'll share some helpful hacks for finding and designing accessible images using color filters in stock photo search engines, color wheel tools in design apps like Canva and Adobe Express, and font suggestions.

A. Utilize Color Filters in Stock Photo Search Engines

Many stock photo websites offer advanced search options that allow you to filter results based on specific criteria, such as colors or image orientation. By utilizing color filters when searching for images, you can find photos with a more balanced color palette that is easier on the eyes of your audience.

gettyimages.com home
Applied color filter to the Getty Images library, search for ‘vegetables'.

B. Use Color Wheel Tools in Design Apps Like Canva and Adobe Express

www.canva.com colors
Applied color picker to generate color palette on Canva

User-friendly design applications such as Canva and Adobe Express provide built-in color wheel tools, which help ensure your designs have proper contrast ratios between text elements and background colors. This can make it simpler for those with visual impairments to read without having difficulty seeing.

  • Canva: With its intuitive interface, Canva offers an easy-to-use color wheel tool under the “Colors” tab in the editor. Simply select your desired color and adjust its hue, saturation, and brightness to create a harmonious design.
  • Adobe Express: This app provides a color wheel tool that helps you choose complementary colors for your designs. To access it, click the “Color” icon in the toolbar and select “Customize.”

C. Choose Accessible Fonts

Selecting appropriate fonts is crucial when designing accessible images because some typefaces can be difficult to read for users with visual impairments or dyslexia. Here are some recommendations for choosing accessible fonts:

  1. Avoid using decorative or script-style fonts, as they may be challenging to read. 
  2. Opt for sans-serif typefaces like Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana, which tend to have better legibility than serif fonts like Times New Roman. 
  3. Consider using specialized dyslexic-friendly fonts like OpenDyslexic or Dyslexie Font, specifically designed with readability in mind. You can find these options on websites like Google Fonts (for OpenDyslexic).

Incorporating these hacks into your image search process will help ensure that your visuals are engaging and cater to all users' needs regardless of their abilities.

FAQ of Accessible Images

In this section, we will provide answers to frequently asked questions about accessible images and explain their importance and how to incorporate them into your projects.

What are the benefits of using accessible images?

Accessible images offer numerous benefits for businesses, professionals, and eCommerce stores. They ensure that everyone can access and understand your content regardless of any visual impairments or disabilities they may have. This helps improve user experience and enhances your website's SEO performance by making it more inclusive and compliant with accessibility standards.

How do I make my images accessible?

Add alt text: Alt text is a brief description that conveys the meaning or purpose of an image for users who cannot see it due to visual impairments or technical limitations. Ensure all your images have meaningful alt text.
Captioning: Including captions below your images can provide additional context for users needing extra information to fully comprehend what's being displayed.
Avoid relying solely on color: Make sure important information isn't conveyed through color alone since some users may not be able to perceive certain colors accurately due to conditions like color blindness.

I'm not a designer; how can I create accessible graphics easily?

You don't need advanced design skills to create simple, effective, accessible graphics. Online tools like Canva, Adobe Express, and others offer built-in accessibility features like color filters, font suggestions, and more to help you create inclusive visuals. Additionally, consider purchasing accessible images from stock photo sites such as Stockphotos.com, Shutterstock, iStock, or Adobe Stock.

What are some examples of inaccessible images?

Inaccessible images may include:
Images with poor contrast between the text and background.
Complex charts or graphs without accompanying descriptive text.
Images that rely solely on color to convey information.
Pictures without alt text or captions for context.

How can I test if my images are accessible?

You can use various online tools and resources to check your website's overall accessibility, including image-related aspects. Some popular options include:
Achecker: A free tool by Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) that checks your webpage against WCAG guidelines: (Achecker Website)
Lighthouse: An open-source tool developed by Google that audits webpages for performance, SEO, and accessibility.

Create Accessible Images in a Few Simple Steps

Crafting visuals that are available to all is a key part of guaranteeing everyone can engage with and appreciate your content. 

By following the guidance given in this article, you can produce visually pleasing pictures that adhere to accessibility regulations. With a little help from stock photo sites like Stockphotos.com, Shutterstock, iStock, or Adobe Stock for accessible images and our helpful hacks, you'll have no problem creating accessible images step by step!

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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