W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 2006

Re: Alternative text

From: Paul Novitski <paul@juniperwebcraft.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 11:07:15 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

At 11/10/2006 06:24 AM, Matt Lee wrote:
>Finding someone somewhere who can clarify this is hard though, as my
>co-workers want to do things like adding alt text to every single image,
>which is clearly incorrect.

Calling it "incorrect" sounds very hard core and might create a 
collaborative log-jam where a lighter attitude might make consensus 
easier.  Unnecessary alt text will clutter the page but not break 
it.  Technically, from a markup perspective, it's not incorrect.

Who will read the ALTs?  Non-visual user agents such as search 
engines and screen-readers.  Provide alt text for an image when it 
helps search engines index the page better or helps a blind visitor 
understand the page better.  A graphic filigree in the chrome might 
be considered unimportant to alt on most websites but might be worth 
describing in a graphic designer's site.

>On Fri, 2006-11-10 at 14:06 +0000, Patrick H. Lauke wrote:
> > if it's something like a photo of a member of staff on a
> > profile page, I'd treat it as visual fluff and put a null alt on it.

Unless you think a non-visual visitor will benefit by knowing that 
the image is there, even if they can't see it themselves.

I notice that often people will make judgements of whether there's 
any point in making a website accessible based on the immediate, 
first-hand usefulness of the content to a non-visual visitor.  For 
example, a photographer or artist might argue that because a blind 
person can't see their work there's no point in making their site 
accessible... without considering that a blind user might be shopping 
for a gift for a sighted person, or doing research, or expanding 
their knowledge of the world, or any of a myriad of other purposes 
with which we venture into the web.  Could a sports store get away 
with not installing a ramp next to the stairs because "crippled 
people don't play sports"?  Of course not: it's both a false premise 
and broken logic.  Your visitors have their own reasons for visiting 
your establishment.

With this in mind, my inclination would be to label the staff photos 
in alt text, e.g. "Photo of Jules Verne" if in your opinion someone 
might benefit from knowing that this bit of visual resource is 
available for seeing or scraping even if the visitor herself can't see it.

As a sighted user, I might want to know that a web page is available 
in Urdu or Thai even though I'm unable to read those languages.  I 
would consider it arrogant if a web designer hid the existence of 
those texts from me based on an assumption of my surfing purposes or 
my linguistic abilities.

Received on Friday, 10 November 2006 19:07:35 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 13 October 2015 16:21:35 UTC