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Re: [html4all] HTML5 Alternative Text, and Authoring Tools

From: Matt Morgan-May <mattmay@adobe.com>
Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 10:46:03 -0700
To: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
CC: HTML Working Group <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>
Message-ID: <C44DD06B.7C74%mattmay@adobe.com>

On 5/10/08 4:38 AM, "Henri Sivonen" <hsivonen@iki.fi> wrote:
> On May 5, 2008, at 21:56 , Matt Morgan-May wrote:
>> Nobody is asking you to make the impossible possible.
>> 
>> But even in the case where a user with a disability can't work with
>> a given
>> URI, there's nothing that says they can't put alt text on an image.
>> Even if
>> it's machine-generated, you can at least provide enough context to be
>> somewhat useful.
> 
> In the case of the Validator.nu image report, what alt text I could
> provide that added usefulness on top of the other UI text already
> making it clear that the purpose of the tool is that a human reviews
> the images?

I hope you appreciate the irony of using the edge case of a tool intended to
improve the state of alt text as an excuse to make alt text itself optional.

To a blind user, it doesn't matter what you put for @alt when you're asking
them what @alt should be. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a blind user who
thinks that as a result you should make @alt optional anywhere on the web.

To answer your question, if the image has @alt, there's no reason not to use
the @alt that it has. (After all, the alt text printed alongside the image
is actually an alternate rendering for the benefit of people whose UA
doesn't read it to them by default.) If the @alt is missing, "no alt text
found" would be sufficient.

If you want to improve the state of accessibility overall in HTML5, you
should add an attribute to img for the case you're describing. That way,
evaluation tools would know whether the omission was intentional or
accidental, and we could easily spot bad actors by pulling up all the images
on a page marked with that attribute and determining whether they
communicate meaningful information.

> If a user cannot review the images but still enabled the report (e.g.
> out of curiosity or by following a link from elsewhere), what alt text
> could make the user experience better than the UA's own image presence
> indicator?

The UA's own image presence indicator on an image missing @alt is overridden
by assistive technology, which looks for any other metadata it can find
about the image, since it regards missing @alt as damage. QED.

> Currently, there's one HTML5 validator, so what HTML 5 says about
> validation is currently only relevant to the behavior of one product.
> Are you afraid that a new product came along and was worse on the alt
> point but that authors would use it anyway in preference to
> Validator.nu for its other qualities?

No, I'm afraid that people who are tired of HTML 4.01 requiring @alt will
flock to HTML5 since it gives them the freedom to ignore accessibility
wholesale. And that they'll take those bad practices back with them, and
further pollute the already murky (X)HTML world.

> It's also very annoying when people seek to design your product for
> you when you believe your own design is already superior. For example,
> when accessibility advocates keep wanting to move the alt issue into
> the validation function when I've already implemented the Image Report.

Or, say, when standards developers strip a critical accessibility feature,
then suggest -- incredibly -- that users with disabilities rely on
technology that isn't even close to existing, and demand to know why those
users should have the old feature back.

Frankly, your validator and its feature aren't the issue, at least as far as
this thread is concerned. They will do little if anything to improve the
state of @alt relative to the alt text lost by being optional.

We have years of experience to base this on. If you look at any
accessibility evaluation tool, you'll see that they all emit warnings that
are ultimately judgment calls on the part of the author. But many if not
most of those authors drive quickly through those yellow lights, rather than
stop to evaluate them -- and those are the "good" authors. An advisory
message in a validator, however helpful, is not a forcing function in the
same way a validity constraint is. Anybody who's evaluated a site that's
"Bobby-approved" knows that.

>> So far, I have seen nothing in this thread to convince me that this
>> path has
>> any positive outcome for people with disabilities, much less a net-
>> positive
>> one.
> 
> The zero-level is when the author takes no action (no alt).

Unless you have vision problems or certain learning disabilities, in which
case missing alt is a negative. Do you not understand this? Missing alt
means missing semantics, which in all cases is a negative outcome for users
with disabilities.

-
m
Received on Monday, 12 May 2008 17:46:49 GMT

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