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RE: ALT text

From: Charles (Chuck) Oppermann <chuckop@MICROSOFT.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 12:56:34 -0800
Message-ID: <E3A3FFB80F5CD1119CED00805FBECA2F013BBD31@red-msg-55.dns.microsoft.com>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
This message, along with Daniel's interpretation of the use of TITLE and ALT
raises the issue of clear standardization.

To me, ALT is always a textual description of the image ("ALTernative
representation").  TITLE is related to function.

It's a shame that with <AREA> the guidelines have already converted the
original meaning of ALT into a more functional role, this is exactly what
TITLE was intended for.  IE4 does not recognize ALT on AREA, but does
recognize TITLE.  

The problems arise with image only links.  Where does TITLE go?  I say as
part of the <A> tag, since the *function* of the image is where it's
directing you to (the link).

For example:

<A HREF=foo.htm TITLE="Enter my world">
<IMG SRC=globe.gif ALT="Spinning Globe picture">

Regardless of whether or not you think the above example is correct, the
Guidelines (and the HTML specification) should clarify the correct usage of

Charles Oppermann
Program Manager, Active Accessibility, Microsoft Corporation
mailto:chuckop@microsoft.com http://microsoft.com/enable/
"A computer on every desk and in every home, usable by everyone!" 

-----Original Message-----
From: Liam Quinn [mailto:liam@htmlhelp.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 1998 9:36 PM
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: ALT text

Hash: SHA1

1.  From <http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/WD-WAI-PAGEAUTH-0203#Images and Image 

"Each image should have alternative text that describes the function of 
the graphic."

I would argue that each image should have alternative text that *provides* 
the function of the graphic.  The difference here is subtle, but I think 
it's an important distinction.  Describing the function would mean ALT 
text like ALT="decoration", but alternative text like this gives 
unnecessary clutter to text-only users and search engines.  If the ALT 
text were actually *giving* the function of the image, ALT="" would be the 
natural function of a purely decorative image.

2.  The Working Draft also advises the use of ALT text with APPLET.  I 
don't see a point to the existence of an ALT attribute with APPLET.  Since 
alternate content including markup can be provided as the content of the 
APPLET element, surely this is a preferred way of supplying an alternative 
for browsers with Java disabled or not supported.  Placing alternate 
content within the APPLET element also provides backwards compatibility 
with any browsers (or search engines) that do not recognize APPLET.

3.  The Working Draft provides the following example of ALT text:

<IMG src="logo.gif" alt="XYZ Logo">

This ALT text is descriptive rather than functional, so I think it would 
be better used as the TITLE.  The ALT text should take the place of the 
image rather than describe it:

<IMG src="logo.gif" alt="Welcome to XYZ" title="XYZ Logo">

4.  The Draft points out that text can be provided in the body of the 
OBJECT element.  It should also note this ability with APPLET.

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Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/
Received on Thursday, 5 February 1998 16:11:31 UTC

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