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Re: ALT and TITLE Clarification

From: Andrew Kirkpatrick <andrew_kirkpatrick@wgbh.org>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 15:11:25 -0500
To: Chris Ridpath <chris.ridpath@utoronto.ca>
Cc: Jim Thatcher <jim@jimthatcher.com>, WAI WCAG List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, geoff_freed@wgbh.org
Message-id: <4D85F33E-659F-11D9-9132-0003937B30FE@wgbh.org>

> The 2 tests we use to determine that are:
> 1) Alt text must identify the purpose or function of the image.
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/tests/test15.html
> 2) Alt text must contain any text in the image unless the text is
> decorative or redundant.
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/tests/test11.html
> Our example, the WAI compliance logo at http://atrc.utoronto.ca has the
> following Alt text:
> "Level Triple-A conformance icon, W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility
> Guidelines 1.0"
> It  includes all the text in the image so it passes test 2.
> One purpose of the logo is to show that the page passes the WCAG1. I 
> think
> the Alt text covers that by saying "conformance icon".

Are we in a position to make usability demands for alt text when we are 
unable to make them for the image itself?  It seems that this is 
usability, not accessibility.  A sighted user may not know whether the 
image is a conformance icon, an advertisement icon, or just a small 
rectangular image with an alphabet soup of letters on it.  The same 
issue exists for both the sighted user and a blind user.

I will agree that there is information in some images that is not 
explicitly in text, and we do want to have developers capture that in 
the alt. For the record, I don't have an objection to your alt value, 
but don't expect that many people will add the additional information 
(or we may see people going too far and adding 20 words of extra 

Would you say that the icon would prompt a failure in either 3.1 
(Ensuring that the meaning of content can be determined - Section 
headings and link text are understandable when read by themselves as a 
group) or 3.2 (The destination of each link is identified through words 
or phrases that either occur in the link or can be programmatically 
determined.) given that there is sufficient ambiguity in the image 
content such that it is necessary to add words to the alt for that 


> Because the icon is used as a link, the other purpose is to link to a 
> page
> that explains what the conformance means. The Alt text doesn't really 
> cover
> that and would fail test 1 above, therefore failing guideline 1.1 SC 1.
>> I don't want to get into an argument
>> about good alt text, but...
> I'd like to avoid that too but we need to be clear. People can't 
> follow the
> guidelines if they don't know what they mean.
> What do others think - Is the Alt text for that icon OK?
> Cheers,
> Chris

Andrew Kirkpatrick
WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Ave.
Boston, MA  02134
E-mail: andrew_kirkpatrick@wgbh.org
Received on Thursday, 13 January 2005 20:12:07 UTC

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