W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-a11y@w3.org > January 2014

figcaption NOT an replacement for alt in HTML5

From: David MacDonald <david100@sympatico.ca>
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:27:28 -0500
Message-ID: <BLU0-SMTP1015EE0044B966A7BAD7C49FEB90@phx.gbl>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
CC: "'Steve Faulkner'" <sfaulkner@paciellogroup.com>, <kirsten@can-adapt.com>
Steve Faulkner and I had a good discussion about figure/figcaption elements
during the html5 call today. There are a few important things that may help
bring clarity to the discussion. The HTML 5 spec only has one specific use
case when the figcaption could replace alt text. And that is when the alt
text is not available at the time of publication. It includes two important

 Note: Such cases are to be kept to an absolute minimum. If there is *even
the slightest possibility* of the author having the ability to provide real
alternative text, then *it would not be acceptable to omit the alt

Note: Since some users cannot use images at all (e.g. because they are
blind) the alt attribute is only allowed to be omitted when no text
alternative is available and none can be made available, as in the above
examples. " http://tinyurl.com/ox8uhys 

I must confess that I was among those who thought HTML5 said the
<figcaption> element was freely interchangeable with the ALT inside a
<figure> element, even though the limitation is spelled out in the document
in two places. 

HTML5 provides no basis for a WCAG Sufficient technique on this. I think
this will also help inform the greater discussion around F65. Because I
believe most of us thought that there already was an alternative to ALT text
allowed in HTML 5 which set a precedent. Any discussion we have about
allowing substitutes for ALT, (aria-labelledby, aria-label ...) will have to
stand on their own merits without a precedent in HTML 5.

Testing of figcaption with assistive technology is here

David MacDonald

CanAdapt Solutions Inc.
Tel:  613.235.4902
  Adapting the web to all users
            Including those with disabilities
Received on Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:28:03 UTC

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