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ALT text (re Gregg Vanderheiden)

From: Samsara Vagabond <vagabond@slumbering.lungfish.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 12:24:25 -0800 (PST)
Message-Id: <199802172024.MAA22762@slumbering.lungfish.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

>>Charles McCathieNevile:
>> Where decorative graphics are used, an ALT tag can give an idea of what
>> is there. examples would be "pretty blue and pink line", "Picture of me
>> in a red hat and boots", etc.
> Alan J. Flavell:
> Oh no, that is in no sense "alternative text to be presented when the
> iamge is not being displayed".  It's useless as a substitute for the
> function of the image, except in a few special cases.

It's text, it's alternative, and it's presented when
the image is not being displayed. It seems to work in
the literal sense, at least. As opposed to a null ALT
attribute, which fails to be text entirely.

While I agree that it's better to replicate the
function of an image when the image has an external
function, I'm skeptical of the use of null or
blank alternative text. 

Succinctly put, can it be considered "accessible" to withhold either
information that could be used to decide whether or not to view an
image, or the existence of the image entirely?

Certainly it makes reading more comfortable for people who
have decided not to interact with images in any way, but
at the expense, I would think, of people who may
want to interact with SOME images, in SOME manner.

Now, HTML 4.0 could change this, using the title
attribute. So is it acceptable to assume that
everyone reading your page has a user agent that
is title-attribute-aware? The fewest assumptions,
I would think, are required if you make sure to 
always provide meaningful ALT text (which would
preclude null or blank ALT text).

The method I'm considering for my own pages is this:

1) Replace stylized text graphics with the equivalent text.

2) Replace images with an external function (link,
warning, etc.) with a word or phrase that replicates the
function. If this is unfeasible, replace it with a word or
phrase that describes the function.

3) Replace images with no external function (i.e., images
that are there just to be images) with a brief description of 
the image.

I can provide examples if anybody wants them...

--Lore Fitzgerald Sjoberg
Received on Tuesday, 17 February 1998 15:24:54 UTC

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