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Re: alt crazyness (Re: alt and authoring practices)

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Sat, 3 May 2008 17:37:48 +0000
Cc: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <846837BD-174E-416F-8BBF-D6F7EECD7C86@robburns.com>
To: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>


On May 3, 2008, at 1:56 PM, Smylers wrote:

>  1 This webpage conforms to the HTML 5 standard except that it  
> includes
>    unknown images from external sources for which we are unable to
>    provide alterternative text.

This conveys another myth we need to dispel immediately. Few should  
ever be authoring a page where they do not know why they included an  
image on the page (perhaps this is part of the same misconception I'm  
already trying to dispel). All anyone has to do is remove the image  
from the page, decide whether the page is missing something important  
in not having that image there. If it is, put the image back and  
briefly describe what was missing without the image. Perhaps you or  
someone could point us to a real world example of a page where you  
think the purpose of the image on the page is inexplicable. That way  
we could continue the dialog and demonstrate that it's not the case.

I can imagine some ancient web page from a galaxy far far away, where  
we just simply can't decipher what crucial information the image  
conveys, but then we're in the same situation as the user who needs  
that alternate text. Ian has posted examples of a blind user composing  
a page. But again that underscores the same misconception. The author  
of the page doesn't even have to know what the image looks like to  
produce suitable alt text. The author of the page merely needs to know  
why they wanted to place the image on the page in the first place (all  
other text related to the image belongs elsewhere). An author might  
even work with graphic designers who will provide the image much later  
in the design process. In that case the author might include an img  
element with alt value but no src value (e.g., <img alt='an idea for  
after the final exam' src='' > ). A content management system, or  
subsequent author may later provide the URI for src.

So my sense is that so much of the discussion of this issue is simply  
a misunderstanding about what the semantics of the alt attribute  
convey. I think once we get on the same page about that, we'll agree  
that we're still looking for use cases to omit alt and also that their  
is very little hardship in requiring alt.

Take care,
Rob
Received on Saturday, 3 May 2008 17:38:24 UTC

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