W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org > June 1999

RE: Guideline 1 in The evaluation techniques document

From: Leonard R. Kasday <kasday@acm.org>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 17:04:43 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net" <webmaster@dors.sailorsite.net>, "w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org>
Bruce Bailey wrote:

> I agree that we must, at all costs, stay in synce with the WAI guidelines. 
> I will not, however, refrain from complaining.

Do complain!

We've been asked by the guidelines group to document for them issues that
arise as we peruse the requirements.   I'm the point of contact on that.

I'll be documenting and sending them as soon as either

a. we reach a single consensus on a view that differs from the guidelines or
b. reach stabilized differing viewpoints.

So, what do folks think of Bruce's point of view?


Bruce wrote:
>I agree that we must, at all costs, stay in synce with the WAI guidelines. 
> I will not, however, refrain from complaining.  ALT=" " is much closer to 
>function (for spacer images) than ALT="spacer" which is, obviously, 
>descriptive.  I wish the debate over the validity of ALT=" " were archived 
>someplace.  My understanding is that the final opionion on this matter was 
>reached because the HTML specs disregard all leading and trailing white 
>space.  This means that ALT=" " should be treated as ALT="" and that a 
>paradox is produced by having a string to produce the NULL value!
>ALT="" is used for LOTS more things than spacer images.  One technique that 
>I think is fairly common is to divide a large graphic into pieces so that 
>it loads faster.  ALT text is really only required for the first piece and 
>ALT="" would be *prefered* for subsequent pieces of the same graphic. 
> Check out http://www.apple.com/ for an example.
>The rule that you are trying to enforce is:
>> Provide text equivalents for all images, including invisible or 
>transparent images.
>> If content developers cannot use style sheets and must use invisible or 
>transparent images
>> (e.g., with IMG)  to lay out images on the page, they should specify 
>alt="" for them.
>The prohibition against ALT=" " occurs ONLY as part of a depreciated 
>example and it is NOT explained.  We are NOT talking about writing an HTML 
>validator.  What is *OUR* (the WCAG) *REASON* for prohibiting ALT=" "? 
> BOTH of deprecated examples at 
>http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT-TECHS/#spacer-images are meant to show 
>the *wrong* way to do things.  ALT="spacer" is *NOT* suggested by the 
>techniques document.
>Until we get an definitive answer to this, I propose the following:
>- ALT=" " is allowed.  (No warning, nothing.  Not untill we can say (with a 
>clear reference) with authority WHY this is not allowed.
>- ALT="" is suspicious and, if found, the user is prompted with "ALT text 
>for this image is NULL.  This is acceptable only if this image is used 
>solely for decorative purposes and is completely free of meaningfull 
>content, for example, as a spacer image."
>ALT="" should NOT be allowed when the image is the only item in a link. 
> For example:
><a href="foo.html><img src=foo.gif alt=""></a>
>This would mean that our authoring tool would have to be dynamic enough to 
><a href="foo.html><img src=foo.gif alt="">go to foo</a>
>but then generate an error condition if "go to foo" were deleted!
>This is tricky because the "easy out" is to never allow ALT="" -- which IS 
>in conflict with the WCAG techniques document!
>Rules enforced by authoring agents CAN be more strict than the WCAG.  This 
>would alow us to include the ALT="" exclusion!
>I am all for dropping any references to the "TITLE" attribute.  I raise the 
>issue to make the point of how the use of TITLE and ALT(ernate) are 

Leonard R. Kasday, Ph.D.
Universal Design Engineer, Institute on Disabilities/UAP, and
Adjunct Professor, Electrical Engineering
Temple University

Ritter Hall Annex, Room 423, Philadelphia, PA 19122
(215} 204-2247 (voice)
(800) 750-7428 (TTY)
Received on Tuesday, 22 June 1999 17:02:40 UTC

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