WordPress 4.7 Improves Accessibility by Removing Alternative Text Fallbacks

When images are uploaded in WordPress 4.6.1 that have an empty alt text value, WordPress tries to generate one based on the caption text or the image title. If the image title is non descriptive as is common with photos uploaded from digital cameras, the alt text can be meaningless.

In WordPress 4.7, the caption text and the image title fallbacks have been removed. The fallbacks were originally introduced to ensure every image included alternative text. Over time however, this practice has proven to be a poor user experience for people who use screen readers.

Since the fallbacks are removed, users will need to explicitly set a value for the alt text field. According to Joe McGill, the change will not affect content already published but will be the expected behavior in WordPress 4.7 and beyond.

If you’re not sure what text to use to describe an image, check out this article on Webaim. It explains when alt text should be displayed and provides useful tips on how to describe an image.


12 responses to “WordPress 4.7 Improves Accessibility by Removing Alternative Text Fallbacks”

  1. Glad to see this change in 4.7! As you mentioned, the default behavior was less than helpful to people using screen readers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain to new WordPress users how the default alternative text was added to an image. Looking forward to more meaningful alternative text for images!

    • I agree. This is gonna be a big headache for people caring for SEO – personally I have named the files with keywords and keeping it descriptive as I knew the filename is filled as alt text automatically.
      Now it’s going to be another copy-paste step.

      • Yes, agreed here, too.

        I also see with a recent WordPress upgrade that the way the Title is automatically prefilled when a file is uploaded has changed: it used to be that the Title of the example file “Spaceship Engine Specifications.docx” would be automatically titled by WordPress as “Spaceship Engine Specifications.”

        But now it’s titled as the filename/slug is written, and converted to all lowercase: “spaceship-engine-specifications.”

        This I think is a step backward, as well.

  2. This would be useful if combined with a warning that the alt text field is blank. Otherwise, it essentially does nothing to IMPROVE accessibility except to increase the number of blank alt text fields in websites curated by those who do not understand accessbility!

    When used correctly, the alt text fallbacks were a timesaver for curators who had large sites. Now we’ll be simply be copy-pasting the alt text from the title to the alt text field because we only need the one field to describe the image overall!

    However, I do concur that having the caption text be the default alt text was confusing to the user, because you would end up with the same text in both the caption and alt text! Useless.

    The superfluous field here is the title field; I’d prefer to see it removed in the long run.


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