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Re: ALT text in Introduction to WD-WAI-PAGEAUTH

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 1999 17:30:06 +0000 (GMT)
To: "L. David Baron" <dbaron@fas.harvard.edu>
cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.4.10.9902281644380.4628-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Sat, 27 Feb 1999, L. David Baron wrote:

> In the introduction to [1], you say:
>   User agents can render "alt" text as a tool tip, thus providing
>   additional information to the general populace.
> I think recommending that alt text be rendered as a tooltip is a bad
> idea, since it will encourage authors to write alt text that is
> suitable for a tooltip 

Well spotted.  I'd like to support your objection to that wording.

I'm sorry that I haven't had the opportunity to follow the
blow-by-blow drafting of these documents; I'm actually still uneasy
about this too:

  providing a short description of the image's function via the "alt"

I'd much prefer something like "providing a textual substitute for the
image's function...".  That word "description" seems to cover all
kinds of blunder that are seen in practice in ALT texts.

Again in the Techniques document (section 1.2):

  A text equivalent (or alternative text) describes the function or
  purpose of content.

Again this word "describes".

To my way of thinking, the alternative text is a textual alternative
or replacement for the function.  Calling it a "description" seems to
me to be too indirect.  It isn't a "description of a function": when
done properly, it "provides the function", "serves as the function",
or some phrase like that; the only difference is that the original
provides the function by means of an image, the alternative, by means
of text.  I wouldn't call the text a "description" of the image, any
more than the image is an illustration of the text!  They're both
supposed to be doing the same job, just in alternative fashion.

The rest of that paragraph in the techniques document:

  A text equivalent should not describe visual appearance or how
  something sounds. For example, if an image of a magnifying glass is
  used for a search button, the alt-text would be "Search" rather than
  "Magnifying glass".

is perfectly fine, on the other hand.

best regards
Received on Sunday, 28 February 1999 12:30:11 UTC

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