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Re: alt for icons

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 2 May 2001 16:27:02 +0100 (BST)
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
cc: WAI Guidelines List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.4.21-pb.0105021530300.32331-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Wed, 2 May 2001, Al Gilman wrote:

> Text which has an image alternative should not necessarily blend seamlessly
> into the context of flowing text. 

I thought I was making it plain that I entirely agree with _that_
sentiment as it stands.  But at the same time, I contend that
alternative text should not necessarily be forcibly delimited from the
flowing text.  In my view, this decision is the author's duty, not the
client agent's.

I want authors to have the possibility to compose documents in which
the text-mode reader gets to read the document as composed for a
text-mode reader; I don't want to force on them the impression that
they are having to make-do with something which is basically graphical
in nature and they're being given second-best.  As such, I feel that a
browser which inserts deliberate markers designed to say - in effect -
"here was a picture which you can't see" is distinctly unhelpful.

Text-mode browsers have not customarily done that: I think I am
correctly characterising text browsers such as as w3m and emacs-w3, in
this regard, as presenting nothing more than the alternative text as
supplied by the author, just as you're criticising Lynx for doing.

While I've no objection to a user-configured browser option to turn-on
the kind of delimiters you're proposing, I think it would be a
mistake, after years of text-browser custom, to suddenly impose the
kind of change that you're asking for in the behaviour of text-mode
browsers.

> The image is an encapsulation, something
> which is more distinctly set off from its context than are three words
> appearing somewhere in the middle of the sentence.

The image _is_ inevitably an encapsulation, even where no such
encapsulation is desired.  You seem to be addressing that as if it
were an indisputable benefit, but I'm saying it may sometimes be a
disadvantage.  It depends on what the role of the image is in that
particular position, i.e on what the author is trying to achieve.

> To retain the rhetorical structure in the composite equivalent page with the
> ALT text displayed and not the image, should there be something in the text
> presentation -- whether style or punctuation -- which retains this
> encapsulation,

Sorry, but I have to put it to you that you are merely re-stating your
original assertion in different words, as if they were proof of what
was originally in dispute.  I'm afraid I have to disagree with the
re-statement, just as I disagreed with the original.  I say that the
question of whether the alternative text should run-on seamlessly with
the main text, or should be delimited from it, is one that in my
opinion only the author of the content can properly decide.  But of
course the reader gets the "last word", so I would be content to go
along with a configurable option in the browser.  (As you can see, I
would want such an option to be off by default.)

best regards
Received on Wednesday, 2 May 2001 11:27:18 GMT

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