Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Improve accessibility and inclusion with Alt Text for images in Private Chat

This blog is part of a series on Teams. For more articles, check back often

Written: 20/02/2022 | Updated: N/A

I have a lot to look forward to this week. Having just finished Global Power Platform Bootcamp 2022, Canadian Cloud Summit 2022, a Job Task Analysis for MS-900, having delivered MS-900, SC-900, Teams Phone and many other things besides, I look forward to a week of nothing – as in nothing in particular, nothing time sensitive hanging over my head like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Of course, there is always Teams Nation – and things could always change by Tuesday, but the outlook – by and large, is sunny. Now, there’s a feature which has just dropped into Teams GA this week which you may have not even noticed has been added. I did. This is because I’ve been aware of it for about the last two months so I’ve been checking the 3.6 every week when I’ve come to write a blog. It’s a small but vital add. It’s an accessibility add so I feel I have an obligation to call it out. I won’t harp on about how my appreciation for accessibility features within Microsoft 365 have grown over the years – and admittedly I am still learning to use them more consistently with others – but needless to say there are 1 billion people in the world who live with a disability so its really quite essential that the tech we use must be designed for, and embrace those with a sight or an aural disability, those who are neurodiverse (E.g. dyslexic), those who have learning difficulties, mobility difficulties such as dyspraxia, or those who live with mental health conditions with depression, anxiety or ADHD. So in addition to what’s already available today, I was really happy to see Alt Text for Images in Teams finally ship – although at the current time it seems to only be in GA/Preview for Private Chats. Channel conversations aren’t there yet. Still, it’s a start. So what is Alt Text? How do we apply it?

Let’s go.

This blog will cover

  • What is Alt Text?
  • Guidance for using Alt Text
  • Adding Alt Text to Images in new Private Teams Messages
  • Adding Alt Text to Images already in Private Teams Messages
  • Adding Alt Text to Images in Teams Meetings
  • Using Alt Text with Immersive Reader
  • What about Channel Conversations? And other FAQ’s

Prerequisites

  • Teams Licence (Within Office or Microsoft 365 Licence)
  • Desktop Client or Web Client (Tested both)

WHAT IS ALT TEXT?

Alternative text (alt text) is descriptive text which conveys the meaning and context of a visual item in a digital setting, such as in an app or on a web page (Microsoft, 2021). It is designed to help people who are blind or who have low vision understand what images and other objects are. When screen readers such as Microsoft Narrator reach digital content with alt text, they will read the alt text aloud, allowing people to better understand what is on the screen. Well-written, descriptive alt text dramatically reduces ambiguity and improves user experience.

You may be familiar with Alt Text from other Microsoft apps such as PowerPoint

An image showing Alt Text functionality within Microsoft PowerPoint

GUIDANCE FOR USING ALT TEXT

There is guidance for using Alt Text, since Alt Text can create problems for those who experience sight loss or blindness. It is recommended to adopt best practice from recommendations given by professional organisations

Royal National Institute of Blind People
Microsoft
W3C Resources
WebAim

ADDING ALT TEXT TO IMAGES IN NEW TEAMS PRIVATE MESSAGES

1.) In Teams, select the Chat app from the left app rail

2.) Select the chat you require, whether it is a 1 to 1 chat or a group chat. This example will use a group chat which has been titled ‘The IT Crowd’ consisting of my co-workers Marco, Vesku, Adam and Amanda

2.) Start a new message, copy and paste an image in but don’t send it. This example will use an image of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak where the message is not sent

2.) Before the message is sent right click on the image and select Add Alt Text

3.) Type out the Alt Text. There is a maximum of 240 characters. Once done select Save

4.) Complete and send the message

5.) Clicking on the Image will show the Alt Text has been applied down the bottom, like small captions

6.) Alt Text also helps to find the image through search. A search for the term ‘Boris Johnson’ helped easily find the associated image

ADDING ALT TEXT TO IMAGES ALREADY IN TEAMS PRIVATE MESSAGES

Adding Alt Text to a new private message is easy and in the flow of the work, however, what if you need to add Alt Text to an image which is already in a private message?

1.) On the private message – like this one of the infamous honeybadger – however over the top right, select More Options (…) then Edit

2.) Right click on the image and then select Add Alt Text

3.) Repeat the steps above. Using this method you can also edit existing Alt Text on other images which you have already added Alt Text to

ADDING ALT TEXT TO TEAMS MEETINGS

Because Alt Text can be used in private 1:1 chats and group chats, this means that Alt Text can be used for images in Teams Meetings and (Meet Now) via the calendar app. Here it an example of it being used in a Meet Now initiated via the Calendar App. Remember – Alt Text doesn’t currently work for channel conversations so at the time of writing it won’t work within Channel Meetings or adhoc (Meet Now) in channels

USING ALT TEXT FOR IMMERSIVE READER

One of the benefits of Alt Text coming to Teams is the ability for it to work with Immersive Reader. This can really give context to the user who needs it

1.) On the private message hover over the top right, select More Options (…) then Immersive Reader

2.) Alt Text will display in the Immersive Reader giving a lot more context to what is said

WHAT ABOUT CHANNEL CONVERSATIONS AND OTHER FAQ’S

Q. Does Alt Text only work for Private Teams Messages?
A. At the current time, yes it can only be used for images in Private Chat, it does not work in Channel Messages at the current time. When you right click on the image, it just says ‘Copy’ and does not give the option for Alt Text

Q. Will Alt Text come to Channel Conversations in the future?
A. I expect it will be there in the future and this is just the first place that it will surface: a bit like loop components they are only in private chat currently and not in channel conversations

Q. Can you control Alt Text – is there a control for it in Teams to enable/disable?
A. Looks like it is built into Teams – a bit like Immersive Reader. There could of course be something that controls it in the dev controls (accessed via the system tray) but there doesn’t look to be anything in the settings. I would argue this should be a mandatory feature regardless so I wouldn’t personally look somewhere like the dev controls anyway.

Q. Does Alt Text support High Contrast?
A. Yes, as shown here

Q. In these pictures the Alt Text looks very small. Can it be made bigger?
A. Yes, the Alt Text below the picture is defined by the Zoom of the Teams Client. Mine is very small (at 70%). Making that bigger makes the Alt Text bigger. Here’s what it looks like at 120%.

Q. Can Alt Text be done on Gif’s?
A. No, not currently – tested that but it didn’t work even with a manually uploaded Gif

Q. Does Alt Text support Translate?
A. This needs more thorough testing, but doesn’t look like it at the moment. I have logged on with Vesku in the Finnish language (Suomi) and whilst the translate feature translates the message into Finnish, when clicking on the image, the Alt Text is still in English not converted to Suomi

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