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Re: HTML Action Item 54 - ...draft text for HTML 5 spec to require producers/authors to include @alt on img elements.

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2008 11:17:39 +0000
Cc: "public-html@w3.org Group" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <5819D4E9-DA33-45D8-8DF4-8D6EC58FEBBB@robburns.com>
To: Dave Singer <singer@apple.com>

Hi Dave,

On May 14, 2008, at 9:21 PM, Dave Singer wrote:


>> So an image that is on the page but not part of a link, not  
>> presenting rich text, and not an icon - but still semantically  
>> important - would simply have alt=''. Perhaps something like this  
>> for a vacation photograph discussed on a blog:
>>
>> <figure><legend>We made a sand castle a the beech</legend><img  
>> alt=''  role='meaningful' longdesc='descriptions#sandcastle' ></ 
>> figure>
>>
>> Such an approach would:
>>
>> 1) satisfy the requirements you raised
>
> well, it does conflate two cases.  It's not obvious to me why this  
> is OK.
>
>> 2) provide rich accessibility
>
> Empty alt text for a semantically significant image has to be a  
> failure, right?  (Even if it's a failure forced on the creation  
> point by a simple lack of data).

It is a failure under HTML4 and current best practice (and its a  
failure according to the recent first re-draft of the IMG element  
section). However, my view is that we should make it acceptable by  
lifting some of the burden off of the alt attribute. By making us of a  
required alt attribute, a required role attribute and other optional  
attributes (as well as pushing UAs to provide access to media file  
metadata properties) then there is no reason why this needs to be  
considered a failure. We may need to do something for legacy UAs to  
help them handle HTML5 documents (some are discussing the use of the  
alt='image' or alt='_image' for such cases). In the long run, though I  
think simply a null alt with an appropriate role attribute value  
should be sufficient for these images (often photographs).

I feel that alt has a special role to play with replacement text.  
Asking also to serve as descriptive text overloads the attribute and  
leads to most of the problems discussed surrounding this attribute.  
The assistive technology user should be in the driver's seat and  
should be able to request descriptive content when desired. To return  
to the often sited Flickr example, for many photographs (and even  
charts and graphs, though they invariably need some brief replacement  
text) such descriptive metadata will often be lengthy and many times  
hinder the comprehension of the larger picture. When visiting a photo  
album web site its more important for the user to first comprehend the  
lay of the land before enduring lengthy or even brief descriptions of  
the photographs one at a time and starting with the first photograph.  
Instead the site should make it clear that this is a page with n  
photograph thumbnails, it has some navigation controls and some  
summary caption for the gallery. Only after all that (which the user  
might interrupt on a re-visit) should the user be ready for navigating  
the list (usually presented as a grid, but its really just a list) of  
photographs and querying individual photographs for titles, subject  
and visual descriptions.

Take care,
Rob
Received on Friday, 16 May 2008 11:18:27 UTC

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