W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > August 2007

Re: Baby Steps or Backwards Steps?

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 22:52:44 -0700
Cc: HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org
Message-Id: <C070FC9D-7216-4690-8289-5DBCD38D6A61@apple.com>
To: Jason White <jason@jasonjgw.net>


On Aug 15, 2007, at 9:07 PM, Jason White wrote:

>
> On Thu, Aug 16, 2007 at 01:43:04PM +1000, Lachlan Hunt wrote:
>
>> IIRC, one of the problems with that approach is that encourages  
>> authoring
>> tools wanting to output conforming markup to generate useless alt  
>> text,
>> which is often worse than providing no alt attribute at all.
>
> On the contrary, it could also encourage authoring tools wanting to  
> output
> conformant markup to prompt the author appropriately in the user  
> interface to
> supply the necessary ALT text.

I raised this issue a while ago on the WHATWG list. The specific  
examples I cited were:

1) Photo sharing sites like flickr.com. It would be wildly impractical  
for such a site to prompt the user for alt text for every image,  
especially since they allow batch uploads of hundreds of photos. They  
do allow adding caption text that is visible to everyone, but don't  
require it.

2) Mail clients that generate HTML. A user may be inserting an image  
or multiple images through drag-and-drop or copy/paste. Again it would  
be impractical and annoying to prompt the user.

Please keep in mind these kinds of scenarios where the "authoring  
tool" is simply an end-user application that happens to generate HTML.  
Such applications aim not professional authors but end users who are  
not experts on markup or accessibility. Note that popping up a modal  
dialog to ask for alt text could actually hurt accessibility for  
creating and sharing content.

In practice what has happened in cases like 1 and 2 is that alt=""  
gets inserted always, which is counterproductive. It leads screen  
readers and text-only clients to treat the image as purely decorative,  
which it's not. It is better to leave out alt entirely in such cases  
so that tools can indicate the presence of an image.

Regards,
Maciej
Received on Thursday, 16 August 2007 05:52:55 UTC

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