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RE: ALT-attribute usage (fwd)

From: Gregg Vanderheiden <po@trace.wisc.edu>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 23:08:14 -0600
Message-ID: <01BCE196.1D8C28C0.po@trace.wisc.edu>
To: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Chuck - you are right.    In differentiating between Alt and LongDesc
 I should have chosen a better example for ALT.

The bullet discussion does, however, bring us back to the discussion we had 
earlier on the list and which we need to resolve (so we know what to put 
into the guidelines).  And that is:   What do we do with graphics used to 
show construction.  These graphics are not purely decorative.  Take bullets 
for example.  There is a reason that we put bullets in front of items in a 
list.   It is to differentiate items in a list from lines in a paragraph. 
 In my previous example, "Bullet" is the meaning of the graphic I would 
think it should be listed as an alt text.   Hearing it repeatedly is 
annoying on one level but not hearing it can lead to confusion about what 
you are hearing.   It may not be clear that you are listening to items in a 
list.. or where the list ends.

	2) the alt text could be "list item" but that is longer and still repet
	3) the alt could be "list item 1 , 2, etc... but in some cases, giving the 
list items numbers indicates an ordinality that isn't there.
	4) using a blank alt text only works in one browser - it doesn't do
anything for people using Netscape or IE.  In both these cases anyone using 
a browser with graphics off will get an "image" message with no explanation 
of what the image is.  In the example above it would say image instead of
bullet which would not be better ( I don't think)

Soooo  Let's see if we can list the alternatives so we can focus on this
item.  Let me list these separately so I can collect everyone's comments on 
each one.

1)  Tell them to never use graphics as bullets.  Tell them to use Style
sheets instead to put bullets on items (with multiple types of items so
different items can have different bullets in the same list).   [Is this
supported in CSS2?]
	- works well in future [if supported in style sheets,  but only when they 
are supported in all browsers]
	- doesn't work with browsers today (so not a viable option for now?)
	- telling them not to use fancy bullets is probably not realistic...
though it would solve the problem.

2)  Recommend using alt = "" for all bullets.
	- lowers the chatter content of page
	- can leave a list of items looking like a scrambled paragraph.
	- doesn't indicate when the list ends and paragraph text begins

3) Recommend using some other character,  such as alt = "*"  (asterisk)
	- works well visually. But when spoken it is actually longer than "bullet"
	- some screen readers / synthesizers do not pronounce it unless the
preferences are set right.  (What is best char?)

4) Recommend use of Alt = "bullet, "  (comma and space important to provide 
	- gets us back to providing a short audible cue between items to separate
them and identify them as being items in a list.
	- works on all browsers today
	- gives the audible equivalent of a visual bullet
	- allows variation if there are different bullet images (in which case the 
meaning of the different bullets should be substituted.
	- is annoying to hear if you already know for sure that it is a list item

From this listing it would appear that "bullet" would be the proper 
approach.  Many people seem to agree, but others think that this is not the 
right way. As editor of the guidelines I don't know what to put in So this 
is an attempt to gather everyone's ideas so that we can come to a consensus 
(either on the list or at the meeting).  This thing keeps coming up and I'd 
like to come up with a decision as to what we should put in.

To help look at the topic consider the following.

If you had a savvy screen reader or talking browser,  how should it best
read a list of items aloud.  Would it announce anything between items on a
list?  For example here is a list without any bullets and with everything 
left justified as a screen reader would encounter it.

Departments in XYZ Division
Semantic Otholinguistics
Tortuous lengthly Polimetric
Physiometric Othomology

The same list with bullets provided.

Departments in XYZ Division
* Semantic Otholinguistics
* Tortuous lengthly Polimetric
* Physiometric Othomology

or with bullet alt text

Departments in XYZ Division
bullet Semantic Otholinguistics
bullet Tortuous lengthly Polimetric
bullet Physiometric Othomology

Sorry for the items but I couldn't thing of anything better.  The point is
that if you don't announce item boundaries it may be difficult to tell
where they start and end for items that wrap to the next line.

Seems like a choice of clarity and unambiguity and un-chattyness.
Ideally, in the future the user would be able to tell the browser to 
pronounce or not pronounce the bullets.
Then they could choose when and where it was helpful or not.
Until then however, we need to provide guidelines for old browsers.

All for now.

Looking forward to your comments and additions to the above listings.  I'll 
repost the listing with all additional comments and any added options.



-----Original Message-----
From:	Chuck Letourneau [SMTP:cpl@starlingweb.com]
Sent:	Thursday, October 23, 1997 7:38 AM
To:	w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject:	RE: ALT-attribute usage (fwd)

We will have only one difficulty in making a guideline for the use of
ALT-text:  the difficult part will be to make it concise - because both
Gregg and MZ are correct.

I think Gregg's quick example of using ALT="bullet" for a bullet graphic
was unfortunate, since he has elsewhere used much better examples of
ALT-text choices.

In practice, I have used something like ALT="Item 1", ALT="Item 2", etc. on
bullets when the lists are fairly short or where I really want the reader
to notice the distinction.  Then I have used the null ALT when there are
numerous list items.  When I do the latter, I include an alt-text
disclaimer stating that images without ALT-text are strictly decorative.

And yes, including that statement has annoyed some people who dislike the
thought that I am deciding what is important for them.  However, having
used screen-readers myself, and from training screen-reader users to use
the Web, I agree with MZ that if the choice of ALT-text is not truly
meaningful or is repeated ad nauseam, then to quote something Dr. Norm
Coombs said to me recently "It may be accessible, but it isn't useable!"


MZ wrote
>No - that is one of the most annoying, worst uses of ALT on the web.
>bullet product one
>bullet product two
>bullet product three
>You should not use ALT text to describe the image.  Describe the meaning
>of the image, and if it is decoration, use null text - ALT=""

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Received on Wednesday, 29 October 1997 00:15:37 UTC

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