W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > wai-xtech@w3.org > August 2007

Baby Steps or Backwards Steps?

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 15:47:43 -0400
To: HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org
Cc: love26@gorge.net
Message-Id: <20070815191922.M84610@hicom.net>

baby steps?  you're talking about "baby steps" while the baby's still in 
the incubator?  the baby won't survive for very long as long as the 
following is in the HTML5 draft:


When the alt attribute is missing, the image represents a key part of the
content. Non-visual user agents should apply image analysis heuristics to
help the user make sense of the image.

that's a rather sweeping and fallacious claim -- where is the "research" 
to back this up?  how are said heuristics to be performed?  how reliable 
can such a process be?  and, most importantly, if, in fact, an "image 
represents a key part of the content." then it MUST be available to 
everyone -- content is content, no matter what format that content is 
encoded in...

and what does (citing the same source as above, the following mean?

A key part of the content that has no textual alternative

how can it be a "key part of the content" without a textual alternative?

again, quoting from the above-cited reference:

In certain rare cases, the image is simply a critical part of the content, 
and there is no alternative text available. This could be the case, for 
instance, in a photo gallery, where a user has uploaded 3000 photos 
from a vacation trip, without providing any descriptions of the images. 
The images are the whole point of the pages containing them.

In such cases, the alt attribute must be omitted.

MUST be omitted?  you're telling us that a "critical part of the 
content" MUST NOT have alt text defined for it?  the alt attribute 
is a REQUIRED attribute under HTML 4.x for good reason -- the same
reason why i have proposed on this list that the summary attribute
be made a REQUIRED attribute for TABLE

moreover, the draft's second example is a CLEAR illustration that 
an illustration is often "a critical part of the content":

A screenshot in a gallery of screenshots for a new OS:
<img src="KDE%20Light%20desktop.png">
<legend>Screenshot of a KDE desktop.</legend>

so, the draft is claiming that a "screenshot of a KDE desktop" is 
enough to provide me with an equivalent user experience to that of 
someone who can perceive and visually process the "screenshot of a 
KDE desktop"?  the "legend" is so vague as to be completely 
meaningless -- if i, as a blind user, do not have an understanding
of a KDE desktop, how am i supposed to communicate problems/issues
to a sighted colleague?  i need to know not just that there is a 
screenshot, but what that screen shot illustrates, in as much 
detail as possible -- there's no law saying that a user must 
read such a detailed description in full, BUT it must be fully 
described for those who need a detailed description, and that is 
the author's duty, and the markup's function -- give me a terse 
description of the image, as you have done with the "legend" defined 
for the "figure" but that terse description is ABSOLUTELY meaningless
unless it is described in detail...

neither the HTML5 draft -- nor any other associated document -- should
instruct authors that alt text is unnecessary in ANY circumstance, let 
alone in the straw-man examples cited in the above-referenced section,
to which your own "rules" don't apply -- show me the machine that can,
heuristically, dependably, and in a human-comprehensible form, interpret 
a screenshot of a KDE desktop...

SELF-EVIDENT, adj.  Evident to one's self and to nobody else.
                    -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
    Gregory J. Rosmaita: oedipus@hicom.net
         Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/
Oedipus' Online Complex: http://my.opera.com/oedipus
Received on Wednesday, 15 August 2007 19:47:56 UTC

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