July 2019 Update: Medium now offers the ability to add alt text to pictures. To update an image to include alt text, just click edit story and then select an image in your story and choose alt text. It’s very easy to add alt text now.
Alt text is the most basic component of website accessibility and yet Medium.com, the very site you’re reading this article on, doesn’t offer writers a way to publish images with alt text attached to them.
It’s surprising, especially given the ultra litigious environment of 2019 and how easy this would be for Medium to add in.
What is alt text?
Alternative or alt text is the value given to the alt tag of an image. It allows for someone who can not see an image to know what the image is.
For example, if I upload an image of a pit bull puppy, I might put “cute white pitbull puppy with brown patch on its eye sitting in grass” as the alt text.
Generally, you want to make alt text as descriptive as necessary to convey the meaning of the image. This might take 6 words or it might take 16.
While Medium provides an easy and intuitive image upload button when editing articles, it doesn’t currently provide the ability to enter or code in alt text.
Next best thing
While there isn’t a workaround for this, the most accessible thing writers can do at this point is to put a descriptive caption beneath the images.
The good news is that adding an alt text option is an easy fix for Medium and they’ll very likely have this in place sometime in 2019.
As soon as the fix is in, Medium will have the biggest of the 38 WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria checked off.