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Re: Baby Steps or Backwards Steps?

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 10:04:38 +0100
Message-ID: <46C41326.5050107@cam.ac.uk>
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>
Cc: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>, Jason White <jason@jasonjgw.net>, public-html@w3.org, wai-xtech@w3.org

Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:

> 3. how does leaving alt out entirely when an image is not "purely 
>    decorative" "better" serve someone merely by indicating the 
>    presence of an image?

The question you have to ask is better than what alternative? Obviously 
a missing alt attribute is not better than the alternative of well 
written alt text, and nobody has argued it is (as an aside, the draft 
goes in to a great deal of detail on how to write good alt text, far 
more detail than HTML 4 and far more than it goes into for any other 
attribute, presumably reflecting the great importance that the editor 
places on well written alt text as an accessibility aid). However a 
casual glance at the web will indicate that many sites do not have well 
written alt text. Even where the alt text is present it is often 
unhelpful either duplicating content that is in the main text (e.g. 
flickr), containing text that is not an alternative to the image (your 
photo gallery) or containing blank values for non-decorative images. Is 
the user really better off with the unhelpful alt text than with the 
information that an image is missing and whatever attempt the browser 
can make at extracting metadata from the file itself (e.g. by reading 
the EXIF headers in a JPEG file)? My feeling is they are not. Also, 
maintaining the distinction between alt="" meaning "This is a decorative 
image" and menaing "I wanted to validate but didn't think of alternative 
text" should prevent non-graphical browsers from having to treat all 
instances of alt="" as signifying potentially-important-but-inaccessible 
images.

-- 
"Mixed up signals
Bullet train
People snuffed out in the brutal rain"
--Conner Oberst
Received on Thursday, 16 August 2007 09:05:16 GMT

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