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Re: The alt="" attribute

From: Philip TAYLOR (Ret'd) <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 22:21:48 +0100
Message-ID: <48B473EC.6090907@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: public-html@w3.org

A few comments on Ian's recent message :

Ian Hickson wrote:

[...]
> B.1. Do not allow pages to be written that contain <img> elements for 
> which suitable alternative text isn't available.

"Do not allow pages to be written ..." :

We are discussing a W3C specification, not
some aspect of international law.

>  * We have data showing that there are pages that have images that have no 
>    alternative text available where the generators of the HTML are not 
>    able to obtain that data.
>    Evidence:
>    http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Aug/0602.html

The "evidence" repeats the assertion, tben adds "See, for
example, all the pages listed at the top of this e-mail."
Having seen a representative sample of the pages referred to,
it is not at all obvious that the sites were unable to obtain
the data; on the contrary, they appear not to have asked
for it.

>       
>  * We have shown that requiring alt="" attributes does not lead to image 
>    sharing sites requesting alternative text from their users.
>    Evidence: HTML4 requires alt="" attributes, yet Flickr doesn't require 
>    users to enter alternative text.

HTML 4.01 Strict (to which Flickr author) requires many
things, a significant number of which Flickr elects
to ignore, as is its right.  Validation of Flickr's
start page alone produces 30 errors and nine warnings,
including :

	NET-enabling start-tag requires SHORTTAG YES
	character data is not allowed here.
	cannot generate system identifier for general entity "t".
	document type does not allow element "IMG" here; missing one of "P", "H1", "H2", "H3", "H4", "H5", "H6", "DIV", "ADDRESS" start-tag.

and so on ...

 > We can't say that making a site like Flickr requires asking all users
> for alternative text, since users simply won't provide that data (B, B.1). 

I have asked for evidence to back up that assertion
in a previous message; I repeat that request here,
since the argument is being adduced fairly reguarly
but no evidence is forthcoming.

> To make a decision on this <img> issue I also have to make some ethical 
> determinations. In particular there is a conflict between allowing any 
> author to publish content, and requiring all authors to publish content 
> that is usable by anyone. 

I see no conflict.  We allow anyone who passes a driving
test to drive, but that does not give them a mandate to
drive without consideration for other road users.

> On Mon, 18 Aug 2008, David Poehlman wrote:
>> accessibility is right not privilige.
> 
> Nope, sorry, accessibility is a privilege.

Words fail me.

> By definition if it is non-conforming we are saying we have a problem with 
> it. 

No, "we" don't have a problem with it, it has a problem.

> Sites aren't allowed to make non-conforming pages, that's what 
> conformance means.

"Not allowed" ?  The presumptuousness of this statement
staggers me.  /Of course/ sites are "allowed" to make
non-conforming pages, just as they do at the moment :
all we are doing is defining what they should /aim/
to achieve.

> On Sat, 23 Aug 2008, Philip TAYLOR wrote:
>> Ian Hickson wrote:
>>
>>> Speaking with my Google hat on for just this paragraph, I can assure 
>>> you that with Picasa Web Albums, if we offered our users the 
>>> opportunity to specify alternative text, most wouldn't use it, if we 
>>> required them to provide it, most would provide bogus text, and if we 
>>> forced them to provide useful alternative text, they would all find 
>>> one of our competitors' sites and give up on Picasa altogether. 
>>> (Google hat off.)

>> Speaking with my Picasaweb user's hat on, can you please substantiate 
>> this statement with /evidence/, not hypothesis and personal (or 
>> corporate) opinion? I can state with 100% certainty that I not only 
>> /want/ to add ALT text, I /need/ to be able to, in order that others 
>> (not necessarily sighted) can have equal access to my portfolios.
> 
> We should probably offer alternative text as an option, I was just saying 
> that we couldn't _require_ it from all users.

Thank you for responding to my request for evidence, but
I still see none, just a modified version of the earlier
statement, a little watered down but still totally
unsubstantiated.

>>> In practice, photo sharing sites will never have alternative text 
>>> available for the vast majorty of their images. Pretending otherwise 
>>> is neither realistic nor productive.
>> Awaiting substantiation.
> 
> If you honestly think that there is any way that image upload sites will 
> ever have suitable replacement text for the majority of their images, then 
> I don't know what to tell you. It just won't happen.

Evidence evidence evidence.  Enough of opinions and hypotheses, please.

> "...we have to base our decisions on the actual results of research rather
> than our opinions..." 
> Ian Hickson:
> [http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-xtech/2008Aug/0137.html]

Philip TAYLOR
Received on Tuesday, 26 August 2008 21:20:31 UTC

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