Alternative text

Alternative text is read by screen readers in place of images allowing the content and function of the image to be accessible to those with visual or certain cognitive disabilities.

It is displayed in place of the image in browsers if the image file is not loaded or when the user has chosen not to view images.

It provides a semantic meaning and description to images which can be read by search engines or be used to later determine the content of the image from page context alone.

WebAIM Alternative Text Basics

Writing alt text is an art

My apologies to everyone who’s listening to my alt text.

Adding alt text

Alternative text can be added in the attachment details or directly on the page.

Changing alt text

You get a chance to change the alt text when you are adding the image to a page. You can also change it directly on the page. If you change in one place, it will not automatically update anywhere else.

Uploading an image directly to the page requires alt text to be added in the block editor. Adding the alt text in the media library usually doesn’t add alt text to the image that was uploaded to the page. Sometimes, if the image is being added dynamically, that will work.

Before you settle on an approach to changing the alternative text, check that it works.

Screen reader users talk about alt text

To me, “students in a classroom” Is better than
1. “Photo of students in a classroom” Or
2. “Image of students in a classroom”

But it’s not too hard for designers and developers to get creative with alt text. It just takes a different part of the brain to get creatively descriptive.

For example, I might suggest the specific classroom and the specific class the students are taking be a part of the alt text:
“15 students in a classroom in Red Square with the professor pointing emphatically at a model of a molecule”

To me, as a blind person, this paints a bigger picture.

David Engebretson Jr.
Digital Technologies Accessibility Coordinator
Western Washington University

You know how they say an image is worth a thousand words? Not when it comes to alt text.

M, who doesn’t remember saying this