W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-a11y@w3.org > August 2012

RE: Updated ISSUE-206 CP

From: John Foliot <john@foliot.ca>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2012 19:33:48 -0700
To: "'Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis'" <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Cc: "'Edward O'Connor'" <eoconnor@apple.com>, <public-html@w3.org>, "'HTML Accessibility Task Force'" <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <005e01cd800e$916b7ad0$b4427070$@ca>
Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:
> Yeah, fine, but …
> The proposed attribute would be a fairly weak signal of the importance
> or non-importance of the image.

How so? It would signal that there is an image that may or may not be important, but that the system does not know.

> Its presence means little. If a
> publisher republishes syndicated content, their automated systems are
> unable to distinguish photos added to articles for illustration rather
> than for more fluffy reasons, e.g. a random photo of a celebrity added
> to an article about that celebrity that has nothing to do with the
> photo, just for the sake of having a photo.

Ergo, there is an image here that is probably not strictly decorative: it may or may not be important, but the system does not know. Full stop.

> Conversely, its absence
> means little: the web corpus will continue to overflow with critically
> important images without @alt or this new attribute.

I'm not looking to solve all problems overnight, and this is certainly one of those types of problems. Developing a solution that has incremental benefit is of equal value to me over seeking the Holy Grail of alt text. We currently lack *any* mechanism that accurately conveys to the non-sighted user that there is an image on the page that most likely should have, but does not have, some alt text. The overwhelming feedback I got was that non-sighted users want to know *that* fact.

> We should be practical and concentrate on improving the accessibility
> mappings to support more effective heuristics, such as intrinsic
> dimensions, color variation, filename, and repeated use, that would
> apply to images with or without this attribute.

Sorry Ben, but heuristics is just a fancy way of saying guessing, and I for one am adamant that guessing is a horrible way of moving forward. 

While I did not ask the dozen or so daily users I spoke with earlier this month, I feel fairly confident that they would all concur that taking a stab-in-the-dark guess at an alternative text can be even more useless than being told that here's an image with no other details - at least in the second case they have an accurate and honest response from the system, and the end user can ask for sighted assistance if they so desire. 

Finally, at this time I believe that this Working Group has already spoken on heuristic alt text:

> Arguing about,
> speccing, implementing, and testing AAPI for this attribute but not
> those more effective signals is a misdirection of effort.

In your opinion. 

If you believe you have a specific solution that could be included in HTML5, please do bring it forward; however until such time as such a solution exists, I myself will continue to seek a usable solution that solves user-problems now.

Received on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 02:34:26 UTC

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