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Re: ALT text (re Gregg Vanderheiden)

From: Liam Quinn <liam@htmlhelp.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 20:00:29 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Samsara Vagabond <vagabond@slumbering.lungfish.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 12:24 PM 17/02/98 -0800, Samsara Vagabond wrote:
>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?

Should the ALT attribute take on this role, in addition to its other role
of replicating the function of the image?  Is there a reason why we have to
attach everything to do with the image to the ALT attribute?

>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.

The TITLE attribute fits perfectly for this function.  ALT gives pure,
context-sensitive, media-independent content, and TITLE gives a
context-free description of a media-dependent element.

>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?

No, but it's acceptable to assume that everyone reading my page won't mind
that they can get all the content at the expense of missing descriptions of
eye candy.  If I force descriptions of eye candy into ALT text, I'm taking
away from the content of the page.  I don't think it's worth it.

>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...

I like #1 and #2, but #3 is inconsistent.  If I were listening to a Web
page, occurrences of #3 would be distracting and/or confusing.  An example
incorporating all three would be nice...

Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/
Received on Tuesday, 17 February 1998 19:59:15 UTC

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