The Role of Alt Text in Web Accessibility

The Role of Alt Text in Web Accessibility

In the dynamic world of web content, ensuring that information is accessible to all users, including those with visual impairments, is of paramount importance. One fundamental aspect of web accessibility is the provision of alternative text, commonly known as “alt text.” This seemingly small feature plays a crucial role in making digital content comprehensible and inclusive for a diverse audience. In this article, we will delve into the significance of alt text and how it contributes to a more accessible web.

Understanding Alt Text

Alt text is a concise, descriptive attribute added to an HTML image tag. Its purpose is to provide alternative information about an image, ensuring that users who cannot view the image can still comprehend its content. This text is read aloud by screen readers, allowing individuals with visual impairments to understand the context and content of an image.

Why Alt Text Matters

1. Accessibility for Screen Reader Users

For individuals using screen readers, alt text is indispensable. It serves as the means through which they can comprehend the visual elements of a webpage. Without alt text, images would be a blank space in their online experience.

2. Contextual Clarity

Alt text provides essential context. For example, if an image contains crucial information or contributes to the overall understanding of the content, the alt text ensures that this information is not lost on users who cannot view the image.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Alt text is a critical factor in SEO. Search engines rely on alt text to understand and index images. Well-optimized alt text not only improves the accessibility of a webpage but also enhances its search engine rankings.

4. Compensating for Slow Load Times

In cases where an image fails to load due to slow internet connections or technical issues, alt text offers a fallback. It provides users with an understanding of what the image is meant to convey, even if they can’t see it.

The Role of Alt Text in Web Accessibility

Best Practices for Writing Alt Text

  1. Be Descriptive, but Concise:
    • Alt text should be detailed enough to convey the content and context of the image, but also succinct to maintain a smooth reading experience for screen reader users.
  2. Avoid Redundancy:
    • If an image’s content is already described in the surrounding text, it may not need additional alt text. Use alt=”” to indicate the image is purely decorative.
  3. Don’t Start with “Image of” or “Picture of”:
    • Screen readers already announce that an element is an image, so starting with such phrases is redundant.
  4. Include Relevant Keywords:
    • If appropriate, incorporate keywords related to the image content to enhance SEO.
  5. Consider the Context:
    • Think about how the image contributes to the overall message or story of the content.

Alt Text in Practice

Example 1:

  • Image: A red apple on a wooden table.
  • Alt Text: “Ripe red apple on a rustic wooden table.”

Example 2:

  • Image: A person using a white cane to cross the street.
  • Alt Text: “Pedestrian with a white cane crossing the street at a crosswalk.”


Alt text is a powerful tool in making digital content accessible to a wide audience. By providing descriptive and contextually relevant alt text, you ensure that individuals with visual impairments can engage with your content on equal footing. Beyond compliance, alt text contributes to a more inclusive and user-friendly web, benefiting everyone who interacts with your content, regardless of their abilities. Embracing alt text is not just a best practice; it’s a cornerstone of creating an inclusive online experience.

We Offer Web & Mobile Accessibility Testing

We at ‘Accessible Zone‘ provide web, mobile and software accessibility testing services. We perform testing manually using screen reader such as JAWS, NVDA & Voiceovers. We also provide VPAT and ACR reports. If you want to use our services do contact us as at or you can also schedule a free call with us from here.