W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 2004

Images as text (was RE: alt text & punctuation - best practice?)

From: Rebecca Cox <Rebecca.Cox@intergen.co.nz>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 08:45:23 +1200
Message-ID: <16446983F8930B44BD3D0C296AC99F96312D21@wlgex3.intergen.org.nz>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

I use Firefox with images disabled at home, on a slow connection. Where
all the images have decent alt text and good markup is used its all

What Firefox does is replace the images with their alt text - and treats
this as it would normal HTML text - so alt text for am image inside an
<H1> for example is shown with the CSS style defined for text <H1> by
the site, or the default large black text if there's no CSS to apply.
All the alt text, along with the rest of the text on the page, is fully

I would definitely use this browser & setting if I had limited vision
and needed to be able to enlarge text a lot. 

I think the other Mozilla / Netscape 6 & 7 family of browsers works in a
similar way. 

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com
Sent: Thursday, 24 June 2004 4:55 a.m.
To: foliot@wats.ca; poehlman1@comcast.net; sdale@stevendale.com;
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: alt text & punctuation - best practice?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Still working on a "way", 
so I can honestly say I don't have one yet, but do have multiple 
stakeholders to satisfy.  The "way" I am trying to find is one 
that does the best job of satisfying as many seemingly 
conflicting needs as possible.  This may become a futile effort, 
but I am not done trying yet.  A complete redesign of several of 
the sites I oversee is in the works for next year, so 
opportunities to change existing design habits exist.

It is very confusing and frustrating when I look at the W3C site 
and see images with text in use, but read on this list that they 
should not be used.  Two examples I can think of where an image is 
required [by banking regulations in the US] are an FDIC insured logo 
and an equal opportunity lender logo.

Last week while reading some other material I discovered the
http://www.csszengarden.com/ site and was amazed.  Since then I have
been working on proof of concept pages to incorporate several of the CSS
ideas into our new design.

Sorry if I left the impression that I was trying to treat the symptoms
without addressing the real problems.  There are thousands of pages and
images on these sites, designed by 
teams of designers, with content and design issues influenced by
multiple business owners.  And then there are partners, like Disney,
Amazon and United Airlines that provide content and 
images for use on their branded versions.  Telling all that 
images may not be used would be suicide and lead to few if any
accessibility improvements.  At some point compromises will be found.  
The information you have kindly provided will assist with finding and 
prioritizing them.

Again, I cannot thank you enough!

Kurt Mattes
Application Development Analyst
Technical Lead - Web Accessibility
[302] 282-1414 * Kurt_Mattes@BankOne.com

-----Original Message-----
From: John Foliot - WATS.ca [mailto:foliot@wats.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 11:18 AM
To: Mattes, Kurt (Bank One); poehlman1@comcast.net;
sdale@stevendale.com; david@djwhome.demon.co.uk
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: alt text & punctuation - best practice?

> That goes a long way to clear up the issue.  Assistance like this IS 
> detrimental to the cause.
> Kurt Mattes
> Application Development Analyst

** With due respect **


The problem is, you keep arguing for continuing to do things your way,
but you want to make it accessible.  Older voices on this list keep
telling you that the accessible way is to do it differently.  What David
is saying is put the text on the page.  Can you give an example of
how/why this would not be an optimum solution?

The W3C's WCAG states:

	Priority 2 - 3.1 "When an appropriate markup language exists,
use markup rather than images to convey information."

It can't be clearer than that.  You keep asking how, many keep
suggesting don't.

To further answer your question requires a "it depends" answer... it
depends on the instance.

	1) suppose you are displaying an icon on your page which
contains text. You could simply echo the text in the image, but is that
enough?  Perhaps something like this would be more appropriate: <img
src="" alt="[icon - download the foobar today]">.  However, if it is a
button, perhaps alt="FAQ" is enough, adding info that it's a button is
superfluous (alt="[button - FAQ]" is not desirable).

	2) you've added a decorative flourish which contributes nothing
to the information on the page? alt="" is enough

	3) you've added a pie chart of information to the page.  This
one is tricky, because the alt text *should* indicate that the image is
a pie chart, but then what of the content "inside" the chart?  longdesc
would be one solution, but a text based alternative within the body of
the document is probably preferable.

		a) <img src="" alt="[pie chart - user base for the
different browsers]" longdesc="longdescription.html">
		b) <img src="" alt="[pie chart - user base for the
different browsers]">
			<table summary="user base for the different
browsers"> data here </table>

(You will also note that I bookend my alt text with square brackets...
this is not on any guideline or best practices anywhere except
internally in my shop.  I add them so that text only browsers can more
clearly differentiate between the text in an alt tag and basic text.
Given that the majority of screen reading technologies can adjust their
verbosity and grammar settings, it generally is a non-issue, and IMHO
adds but does not detract.)

	4) you've got an image which advertises a new service or
product.  DON'T. It's simple... it will not be accessible to all, it
can't be as it relies on a visual rendering to convey the intent.
Perhaps instead create a div or other container, style it up with CSS to
your heart's content, but embed the subject text as text, again styled
as you wish through CSS.  If you really must use imagery, perhaps look
at SVG (scalable vector graphics) as an option, but note that it is
still in the experimental stage and far from mainstream
(http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/).  With apologies to Macromedia, Flash
is still not a totally accessible option, although Macromedia are
working hard to improve that situation.

Kurt, no one on this list will argue that accessible sites need be ugly
or boring... far from it.  Many of the old hands attempt to push the
boundaries to show what is possible with standards compliant, accessible
web development which still has an aesthetic to it.  If you have not
already visited the CSS Zen Garden run, don't walk

In re-reading your post, I get a sense that you are attempting to apply
band-aids and patches to your content to salvage what you have.  This
unfortunately may not be the ultimate answer.  What matter if some
magnifiers enlarge "tool tips" and others don't?  Are you going to state
"Best enlarged with *foo* magnifier" somewhere on your site?  Is that
magnifier available for all operating systems (PC, Mac, Linux/Unix,

Why are you even relying on "tool tips", when their behaviour/appearance
is sporadic at best, invoked differently on different browsers, etc. (to
render them in the Mozilla class browsers requires the use of the title
attribute)? The fact that "tool tips" show up should be considered a
bonus or enhancement, but should not be relied upon for anything
"Mission Critical". Sure, install one if you want to experience the
experience, but there are a number of different solutions out there...
are you going to install each and every one of them, on each and every
possible OS configuration, so that you can test your site?  At what
point do you draw the line?

No, developing to Standards and Guidelines is the only real way of
achieving any kind of consistency.  As other threads currently unfolding
emphasize, the Adaptive Technology still has a role and responsibility
to play as well, but we are not AT developers, we are web developers.
The defacto standard for accessible web development is still the W3C
WCAG (flawed that it is), and so, at the end, all we can really do is go
back to the guideline quoted

	"When an appropriate markup language exists, use markup rather
than images to convey information."

John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America)

This transmission may contain information that is privileged,
confidential and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you
are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any
disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of the information contained
herein (including any reliance thereon) is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. If you
received this transmission in error, please immediately contact the
sender and destroy the material in its entirety, whether in electronic
or hard copy format. Thank you
Received on Wednesday, 23 June 2004 16:46:03 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:28 UTC