A Plugin to Require Alt Text in WordPress?

Ask anybody who knows anything about website accessibility about best practices and alternative text is bound to come up quickly.

Unfortunately, despite being one of the easiest things to implement—though tricky to get perfect—lots of people ignore it out of unintentional ignorance or through bad habit. That’s why I gave 5 stars out of 5 to the WordPress Idea to require alt text. For those who don’t know, WordPress Ideas is an official WordPress forum, to suggest, rate, and discuss ideas for improvements to WordPress.

The entire discussion is interesting and worth reading, but it’s depressingly old (four-years-old, to be precise) and still not acted upon. That’s why I wonder if it’s time for someone to build a plugin that website builders like me can install to encourage clients to add alt text. As the discussion on WordPress.org makes clear, this isn’t as simple as adding a little red asterisk to the field:

  • Sometimes the most appropriate alt text is blank.
  • Requiring alt text can sometimes have the unintended consequence of leading people to use bad alt text that’s worse than none at all.

Maybe that someone who builds a plugin is me. I’m not sure, but I want to put the idea out there and start thinking about it now, so when I’ve got some time, I’m ready to hunker down and spit something out that makes a lot of websites a little bit better.

4 thoughts on “A Plugin to Require Alt Text in WordPress?”

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Melissa! I was actually thinking a lot about this recently. I talked to two screen reader users this weekend and the both thought it would improve their experience on the web.

    1. @savensaven, because alt text is intended for the purpose of verbally describing a visual image to a human, there is no way to automate its writing. It has to be done by a human. This is doubly true because the appropriate alt text depends on the intended use of the image. For instance, if the image is linked, alt text should generally describe the link and not the image. If the image has text in it, then alt text should be the text. The W3C has a nice decision tree listing out the various scenarios and appropriate alt text.

      You may find that a plugin that highlights images with missing alt text is useful. I forget the names but there are a couple.

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