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RE: HTML techniques - Alt-texts for images (no blocker?)

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 11:41:35 -0600
Message-ID: <C46A1118E0262B47BD5C202DA2490D1A1DFB9E@MAIL02.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Yvette P. Hoitink" <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

For what it's worth, the How-tos and Demos section of the Accessibility
Institute site  provides several examples for writing alt text in
different situations, including the null alt for spacers, decorative
images, etc.  See


"Good design is accessible design." 
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John Slatin, Ph.D.
Director, Accessibility Institute
University of Texas at Austin
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-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Yvette P. Hoitink
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 9:59 am
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: HTML techniques - Alt-texts for images (no blocker?)

In the HTML techniques document, there is a technique called "Short text
equivalents for img elements ("alt-text")":

What seems to be missing here, is the explanation of when to use null
alt-text. I remember visiting a website, built by a company who just got
interested in accessibility. They used a lot of spacer images to enforce
layout, each of which had an alt-text saying "Image used for
presentational purposes only". Can you imagine how crazy that drove
their blind visitors? This is a textbook case of when to use null

Another example of when to use null alt-text is when the alternative
text is already present in the page, for example if have a gallery of
pictures where the title of the image is printed below it. Another
example is the combined use of an icon and text as a link, which is
discussed elsewhere on the page:

Besides the lack of explanation about when to use null alt-text, I think
we need some more techniques for providing text equivalents. The WCAG
guidelines version 2 are worded such, that these last two examples I
gave count as providing a text equivalent for non-text content that can
be expressed into words. However, in the techniques document, the
ALT-attribute is the only technique that is presented to provide a text
equivalent for an image.  Reading the techniques document, I would think
that I still had to provide an alt-text for an image, even if (the same)
text was already used as a 'caption' for the image on the page. 
I think this is unfortunate and narrows the intentions of the WCAG 2

Yvette Hoitink
CEO Heritas, Enschede, The Netherlands
Received on Monday, 3 November 2003 12:41:50 UTC

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