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Re: alt to text

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Wed, 02 May 2001 18:59:27 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: A.Flavell@physics.gla.ac.uk
Cc: WAI Guidelines List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

	Thanks for your helpful response. In the case of the "Picture of George
Washington", the title, which followed the picture on the same line was
"George Washington in the French and Indian War" ... the purpose of the
picture was to illustrate the "who" of the content ... In the case of the
"Illustration of an ideal web page", the picture is followed by Checkpoint
3.2 ... The function is to illustrate the componants of a ideally
accessible web page. 

How would I word either of those in an alt tag?


At 11:28 PM 5/2/01 +0100, Alan J. Flavell wrote:
>On Wed, 2 May 2001, Anne Pemberton wrote:
>> When I read in the guidelines that the text equivalent (alt tag) is to be
>> used to describe the function of a graphic, 
>I have protested vehemently about this wording before.  I still think
>emphatically that it is a blunder.  The purpose of the ALT text is to
>serve as a textual _replacement_ ("substitute" if you prefer) for the
>function of the graphic, whatever it might have been.  The HTML4.01
>specification expresses that beautifully in one place, where it says:
>    Several non-textual elements (IMG, AREA, APPLET, and INPUT) let
>        authors specify alternate text to serve as content when the
>        element cannot be rendered normally.
>"To serve as content" - that's the key, in my submission.  Not to
>*describe* the content, but to serve, itself, as a best-value
>substitute for the content. (Unfortunately, in another part of the
>HTML4 spec we find a very clumsy comment, describing the ALT attribute
>as "short description", which I strongly suggest is a mistake, dating
>perhaps from an earlier time when there were no TITLE and LONGDESC
>attributes available.)
>A thing, and a description of a thing, are quite different levels of
>abstraction, and it's been my observation that the effects of
>confusing them in this way can range from the incongruous to the
>> I'm inclined to use such alt
>> tags as "Picture of George Washington" or "illustration of a ideal web
>> page", etc.
>Without knowing the purpose of those images in their context, it's
>impossible to say whether that choice was appropriate or not. We need
>to know what the author purposed by putting them there, before we can
>know what textual replacement might be appropriate.  There is no "by
>rote" answer to this question, as if a bystander could supply the
>ideal ALT text merely by looking at the picture: each case needs to be
>taken on its own merit, based on the author's intention.
>> But doing so raised a fuss that the page was incomprehensible
>> to non-visual users.
>You hit the nail right on the head.
>best regards
Anne Pemberton

Received on Wednesday, 2 May 2001 18:51:51 UTC

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