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Alt="" or " "?

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 16:23:34 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
 From a meeting too long ago [15 June]: "Resolution: to provide author with 
information and let them decide to use "" or " " for decorational images." 
I think that means "decorative" but never one to avoid coining new words.

In summary: Authors must decide: 1) if a particular image is purely 
decorational; 2) it's an image not worth writing any descriptive or 
replacement text for; 3) which of the permissible predicates to put in the 
attribute ALT=. Is it to be the emphatic null "", or the wishy-washy white 
space " "? The considerations are: 1) one or both may trigger the dreaded 
PROMPT "you've neglected to insert alt-text for the image foo.jpg - enter 
here or sacrifice your Single-A Logo (and any thought of achieving Double- 
or Triple-A!); 2) the viewer's screen reader may do anything from nothing 
through a pause all the way to saying "space"; 3) The viewer may place a 
curse on you for alt-text denial.

The choice is the authors' and my only recommendation is that they heed the 
advice of their favorite assistive technology user. The important thing is 
that no semantics be lost.

There is an essay at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-CORE-TECHS/#structure in 
which it is pointed out that <hr> (horizontal rule) isn't a structural 
element EXCEPT FOR BLINDLESS READERS. Yet it could be if it had structural 
markup associated with it. Many of an author's eye-candy conceits are used 
structurally - without her even knowing she's doing that! Structure 
shouldn't be denied to people with disabilities or to machines. Structure 
should be device-independent. Having said all that, there are purely 
decorative that need not be dealt with as if they conveyed meaning or 
structure and for those elements alt="" or alt=" " are equally lame copouts.

Received on Thursday, 28 September 2000 19:26:00 UTC

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