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: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2008 23:23:10 +0000 (UTC)
To: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Cc: wai-xtech@w3.org, wai-liaison@w3.org, public-html@w3.org, 'HTML4All' <list@html4all.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0804152312360.29828@hixie.dreamhostps.com>

On Tue, 15 Apr 2008, John Foliot wrote:
> Ian Hickson wrote:
> > 
> > So let's look at a random image on Flickr:
> > 
> >    http://flickr.com/photos/18356286@N00/854359279/
> 
> So you feel compelled to make this personal then (and here I was being super
> polite and reasonable all day, even paying you a compliment...).

I do not mean this in any way personally. I actually just typed "flickr" 
into my address bar and (because someone happened to mention it earlier on 
IRC) that was the first image that came up. It could be any image on 
Flickr.


> You pick on one photo of four in my public Flickr account that lacks a 
> Flickr "Description". It does have a "Note" however: "Bug meets knee at 
> 90 miles an hour.  Good thing for chaps...", which , if Flickr could get 
> it right, could possibly also serve as pseudo-alt text.

My point stands for all the other photos too, though. Take this one:

   http://flickr.com/photos/18356286@N00/854359251/in/photostream/

If we use the alternative text instead of the images, we get:

   My First Border Crossing... Welcome to Nevada

   Crossing from California to Nevada on the motorcycle - gotta stop for 
   the photo-op 

...which doesn't even mention that an image is there, despite the image 
being the most critical piece of information. As a Lynx user, I would not 
even know an image was present, since the image is marked as decorative.

However, including the description as alternative text would be at least 
as bad:

   My First Border Crossing... Welcome to Nevada

   Crossing from California to Nevada on the motorcycle - gotta stop for 
   the photo-op 

   Crossing from California to Nevada on the motorcycle - gotta stop for 
   the photo-op 

What we really want here is:

   My First Border Crossing... Welcome to Nevada

   [UA-specific image indicator]

   Crossing from California to Nevada on the motorcycle - gotta stop for 
   the photo-op 

...which is why we need a way to flag images that are neither decorative 
nor have any useful alternative text.


I'm not honestly convinced that there is _any_ alternative text that would 
be useful beyond your captions on any of these images, or, frankly, most 
images on Flickr.


> FOR THE LAST FRIGGIN' TIME, ALT TEXT IS ABOUT MORE THAN BLIND 
> PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course they're not. I didn't say they were. Indeed, this issue is even 
more relevant for people who are able to see images but who, for whatever 
reason, have them disabled by default -- for them, seeing the image is an 
option, and for these images seeing the image is what they would want to 
do. We need a way to distinguish images that are decorative (alt="") from 
images that take the place of other text (alt="Save", alt="Home", alt="My 
cat Fluffy likes to play with yarn.") from images that are there for their 
own sake. The latter is not handled by HTML4 or WCAG1 or 2, but HTML5 
handles them by saying that the alt="" attribute is to be omitted for 
those images.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:23:55 UTC

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