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

From: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 16:41:38 -0500
Message-ID: <36EADB92.E36BBEE3@w3.org>
To: A.Flavell@physics.gla.ac.uk
CC: "L. David Baron" <dbaron@fas.harvard.edu>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Alan J. Flavell wrote:
> 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.

The editors will remove the statement about tool tips 
from the introduction.
> 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"
>   attribute
> 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.

Thank you for these comments. We will be moving the definition
of "textual equivalent" to the Guidelines document and the
editors will clarify the meaning at that time.

 - Ian

Ian Jacobs (jacobs@w3.org) 
Tel/Fax: (212) 684-1814 
Received on Saturday, 13 March 1999 16:40:44 UTC

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