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Re: alt to text

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Wed, 02 May 2001 17:48:52 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Adam Victor Reed <areed2@calstatela.edu>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

    Your explanation of three ways to style an alt tag is very good, and
better than I've gotten elsewhere. But, a while back it was decided that
because there was no good way to put alt text to a graphic that contained
text so that it could be used by low vision folks, and because SVG exists,
using pixel images to display text was an improper use of graphics. So, I
wonder if we should be considering these types of graphics as more frequent
than real graphics and illustrations. 

When I read in the guidelines that the text equivalent (alt tag) is to be
used to describe the function of a graphic, I'm inclined to use such alt
tags as "Picture of George Washington" or "illustration of a ideal web
page", etc. But doing so raised a fuss that the page was incomprehensible
to non-visual users. On my page the kids use, I used alt tags such as "Cat
in the Hat", "World Map", "Happy Star of David", etc. I was told that page
is "inaccessible" ... Perhaps my problem is trying to listen to too many
diverse view points and take them all seriously, but I am getting more
instead of less confused about what should be put in alt tags. If I am
confused, and I've been in this accessibility game for a long time, what do
you think is happening with well-intentioned folks who are trying to
understand and are outside this group, or new to the subject?

Judging from the comments made today about the alt tags on the icons, I
suspect I am not the only member of this group who is confused by what is
wanted and needed. 

I'm almost at the point of playing J. Nielson, and dismiss all alt tags by
saying I don't do them well anyway, so it's best to omit them .... (as
Nielson does about graphics on his pages). <grin>


At 10:22 AM 5/2/01 -0700, Adam Victor Reed wrote:
>On Wed, May 02, 2001 at 07:00:33AM -0400, Anne Pemberton wrote:
>> Adam,
>>     I haven't looked at something in lynx for a long time, but I thought I
>> remembered that lynx put the alt tag in brackets < > .... If this is no
>> longer (or never was) the case, then it would be more sensible to change
>> the browsers so that punctuation is added to set off the image text when it
>> is presented visually. That way it will always be there whether the page
>> author has heard of accessibility or not.
>> 			Anne
>Actually, punctuation of alt text is often NOT a good idea, which
>why browsers (lynx etc) ought not to do it. Frequently the IMG is just
>a picture of text (showing the text in a fancy font or faux freehand),
>in which case alt text that is NOT set off from other text is easier
>to understand. Sometimes the IMG is just a fancy capital at the start
>of a word, the rest of which is presented as text, so having the
>browser put all ALTs "in brackets < >" would definitely interfere with
>screen readers.
>Alt text should always be the contextually appropriate text
>replacement for the IMG. If the IMG shows text, the replacement should
>be nothing other than the text in the IMG. If the IMG serves to
>explain or elaborate the regular text, then the ALT should be
>parenthesiszed, just like text that serves the same function. And if
>it is something distinct, like an icon or button, then it should be
>set apart in brackets.
>				Adam Reed
>				areed2@calstatela.edu
>Context matters. Seldom does *anything* have only one cause.
Anne Pemberton

Received on Wednesday, 2 May 2001 17:41:21 UTC

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