W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2008

RE: Request for review of alt and alt value for authoring or publishing tools

From: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2008 13:44:10 -0700
To: "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: "'Tomas Caspers'" <tomas@tomascaspers.de>, <wai-xtech@w3.org>, <wai-liaison@w3.org>, <public-html@w3.org>, "'HTML4All'" <list@html4all.org>
Message-ID: <007101c89f39$7604afb0$cf2a42ab@stanford.edu>

Ian Hickson wrote:
> 
> Right, because the UA/AT is in a much better place to know how to
> help the user in these cases. The idea here is to help the user.

Then start by giving the user something that their AT can work with.  You
are handing them a vacuum and saying figure it out.  Ian, there is a picture
on my desk, what is it of?  You are asking AT to play "Is it bigger than a
breadbox" and then not answering any of the questions.

The current spec goes to great lengths explaining to authors on how to do
many, many things (and if I've never formally gone on record as
acknowledging this strength, I will do so now - take the compliment Ian).
But in this particular case, the spec is excusing a key player (the
authoring tool/web-app) from it's role in ensuring that the playing field
remain level.  You are saying "we can't come up with a solution, so AT needs
to do so" while at the same time giving AT *absolutely* nothing to work
with.

> We
> can get better accessibility by letting user agents compete on best
> handling of these images than we can by letting servers, who have
> near zero motivation to address this issue, try to come up with some
> half-baked solution. 

But if the servers *must* provide part of the solution (to be "conformant"
servers) you have given them the motivation.  Besides, it's not the server,
it's the 'web-app' running on the server.  Flickr and Photobucket use
servers to deliver content, and it's the content we are focusing on here,
not the machines.

> 
> Reserved values are just syntactic variants on omitting the attribute.
> There is no practical difference. (Well, other than reserved values
> being significantly less usable in today's UAs, and omitting the
> alt="" attribute being cleaner, which is why the spec says to omit
> the attribute instead of inventing some new reserved value.)

Yes and no.  Reserved values can be programmatically assigned whatever
values/uses a user-agent needs or wants.  By using a reserved value, AT, all
AT not just a particular flavor or brand of AT, can parse the value and say
"oh, one of those... I do this with those" consistently.  While there is a
weak semantic value to a reserved value, there is *some* value, whereas the
vacuum of not having any alt value is just that, a vacuum, and asks
essentially for a guess, without providing *ANY* clues.  Visual users can
see the photo, non-visual users are discriminated against by being handed
nothing.

Finally,

  "Whatever the device you use for getting your information out, it should
be the same information." - TBL

...suggests to me that it should *not* be the final consuming user-agent
that must deal with the problem (end of the supply chain), but rather the
author and authoring tools (beginning of the supply chain) - it's the old
adage: garbage in = garbage out and nothing within the spec currently
contradicts or corrects this problem.

JF
Received on Tuesday, 15 April 2008 20:44:55 UTC

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