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Re: Creating accessible tables for layout and data: alt attributes

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 12:49:52 -0500
Message-Id: <200201311749.MAA298580@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: "Joel Ward" <ward_joel@bah.com>, "WAI List" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 11:44 AM 2002-01-31 , Joel Ward wrote:
>
>What do assistive technology users think?  Anyone out there feel you are
>being left out if alt text is not included for all images (apart from
>spacers)?
>

AG::  I'm not a screen reader user.  But Kelly Ford, who is not only a user
himself but an experienced trainer, training people to use the things; and the
convenor of a very informative water-cooler list where such users do swap
notes, has told us for example that also in the case of consecutive redundant
links (one image, one text) that he recommends whiting the image link out of
the audio with ALT="". 

This does not mean you won't get a spread of opinion from users.

But what _do_ you think David Poehlman was trying to tell us when he put all
those exclamation marks after "ALT is not description"?  Just now?

It is sometimes tempting to lose patience when people who haven't done due
diligence themselves in terms of reading the record want to insist on hearing
again, straight from the horse's mouth, what has been explained over and over
and over.  You are not the moderator of this list.  You are here, I hope, to
hear from all.  So we can web-publish for all.

The fact that it is an image is the wrong question.  Why is that image there? 
That is the right question.

Then, as you say, keep the ALT short and sweet.  Make it say just what all
visitors to the page need to know.   Then add, if you wish, a description at
one remove from what they _have to_ listen through which provides what some
might be curious to know, too.

Yes, there is a tendency for visual designers to erroneously classify an image
as "simply eye candy."  On the other hand, descriptions of all images encoded
as ALT attributes (even excepting spacers) misses the mark on the other side.

Please review

 affective messaging and effective mode-crossing (desc example)
 <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-tech-comments/2001Aug/0001.html>h
ttp://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-tech-comments/2001Aug/0001.html
 
I did get a few 'Amen' echoes from actual users in response to that blast.

Al


>Kynn,
>
>You make a good point!
>
>The key is deciding if the information is effectively presented somewhere
>else on the page.  Often it is not.  When I said an author may be
>discriminating, I mean that the author may decide that some users don't
>deserve the same content.  Isn't that discrimination?  (Not necessarily a
>bad thing in all situations, because content providers want to be careful
>about local customs and conventions, for example.)
>
>If the author provides the content elsewhere, then I agree it may be
>redundant and not needed.  But if the author is not sure, then I'd err on
>the safe side and add the alt text.  Also, redundancy is not always a bad
>thing.  Like you said, irritation is not an accessibility issue.  Some users
>may be irritated about the additional text, some may be irritated that they
>are left out.
>
>And with regards to the amount of description you include, I would say the
>alt text is simply a label for what the image conveys, not necessarily
>including every detail.  The longdesc or D-link could describe the image in
>detail.  That, of course, is optional and not always implemented.
>
>What do assistive technology users think?  Anyone out there feel you are
>being left out if alt text is not included for all images (apart from
>spacers)?
>
>Joel
>
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <kynn-eda@idyllmtn.com>
>To: "Joel Ward" <ward_joel@bah.com>
>Cc: "WAI List" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2002 11:35 AM
>Subject: Re: Creating accessible tables for layout and data: alt attributes
>
>
>> Joel wrote:
>> > However, I feel user is the one who should decide whether to read or
>ignore
>> > the information.  If the author can add simple alt text to an image to
>> > convey what's in the image, then user has the option whether to
>interpret it
>> > or not.
>>
>> Right, but it's also possible to overdo things. It's possible to add
>> complex alt text to all images which could ultimately distract from
>> the purpose of the page.
>>
>> > If the author feels only visual users deserve to know about their
>images,
>> > then I feel they may be discriminating.
>>
>> I think that's a very loaded term -- I don't know where you are from,
>> actually, but at least out here a claim of "discrimination" is very
>> serious.
>>
>> Therefore I think it's important to look further at what we are talking
>> about and determine to what degree it is discrimination.
>>
>> For example, let's say that I'm writing a column for an online web
>> zine. Along with the column, there's a picture of me. The question
>> now is how do you label the picture of me?
>>
>> Is it important that I'm a white man? That wear eyeglasses? That I'm
>> slightly overweight? That I have a goatee? That I have blue eyes and
>> blond hair? That I am 6'2"? That I am wearing a suit or a sweater or
>> a tie or no tie? Does the color of my tie matter? What if I'm wearing
>> a pin which can't be made out clearly but it's obvious that I'm
>> wearing one? What about my age? What about my probable ethnic
>> background and possibly even social class? What about the lighting
>> where I am, and the background?
>>
>> This is all information which _could_ be conveyed in the visual
>> image. The question then is "what needs to be represented, either in
>> alt text or in a long description?"
>>
>> There are two approaches:
>>
>> * The _important_ information needs to be conveyed, where the
>>   importance is determined by the author's knowledge of the page's
>>   purpose.
>>
>> * All possible information from the visual graphic needs to be
>>   provided to the user, because otherwise it's discrimination.
>>
>> I'm obviously on the side of the first; the second is much too
>> absolutist and ultimately reaches absurdness. If you leave out the
>> fact that I am wearing a tie, then you're denying information to
>> users who can't see the picture -- is that discrimination?  Within
>> the context of the page, which is meant to offer up a column of
>> information, I would say clearly not.
>>
>> > Since it's easy enough to add alt text, why not just add it?
>>
>> Because too much content can weaken the message of the page. The
>> question isn't whether to use alt text, it's whether or not there's
>> additional information that _should_ be conveyed which isn't getting
>> conveyed.
>>
>> > And like I said before, if the image isn't
>> > important enough for alt text, why include it at all?
>>
>> Down that way lies madness. As long as the content is accessible in
>> other ways, _or_ is unimportant to the purpose of the page, there's no
>> need to make that information accessible. And removing it, even if it
>> will help other users understand the page, is an even worse idea.
>>
>> --Kynn
>>
>>
>>
>  
Received on Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:49:56 GMT

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