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

Re: Empty vs no alt attribute (was Re: Baby Steps or Backwards Steps?)

From: Joshue O Connor <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 12:29:59 +0100
Message-ID: <46C6D837.1070505@cfit.ie>
To: Robert Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Cc: Sander Tekelenburg <st@isoc.nl>, HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org

Robert Burns wrote:
> I think Jason was trying to get at the same solution that  this proposal
> tackles:
> <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Aug/0647.html>

Thanks for that Rob, it's a little clearer to me now. Though in truth, I
think I get it and then when I think about it a bit more, I am not
convinced :-)

I see that there is a 'third place' which goes beyond having or not
having alt text in order to:

>> For a browser such as lynx, it could let a user know whether its  
>> worthwhile to bother downloading an image and loading on some other  
>> device or into some other application. 

I see. I can appreciate where that would be useful. However, here is the
confusing bit for me, or in truth several confusing bits. I am kinda
thinking outloud so please forgive general lack of coherence ( though it
kind of comes together at the end).


>>For users of AT, it can let  
>> them know whether this page has content that will ever be  
>> decipherable to the user. 

I am a little confused at this because already users of either text only
browsers or text to speech applications will be able to infer this from
correct structured headings or appropriate links titles etc. I think I
mentioned this before in a previous post. However, unless it is
desirable to somehow index the contents of @alt or @embedrel or trigger
parsing of @title in their absence to make images or the web pages they
are embedded in searchable how if it is missing or unknown then could it
be suitably indexed this way (unless by another @title or a similar

> c) saying something to indicate that an image is missing (and
>>> possibly reading its @title) because that image has no appropriate
>>> alternate text and cannot be omitted from the document without
>>> changing its meaning.

Why would the  author use something like @embedrel to state that the
image is missing? Would they not just not include the image in the first
place? Please forgive me if my stupid brain is not getting this, and I
have read your very clear post! But I just don't get the point of
stating that an image is missing if the image is important for the user
to comprehend the greater documents content and their comprehension of
its meaning will be changed due to its not being included. What kind of
situations would this arise in? Dead or orphaned links to images maybe?

However, I think in the case described above and the image was missing,
and if the author had knowledge of what the content of the image was/is,
then surely they could describe it if they need to? Again if I knew
where these (important) images were are are expected to be then I may be
able to grok the whole thing a bit better.

>> Those are the important distinctions Ian outlines. However, this  
>> approach allows us to state positive authoring conformance norms  
>> such as authors must INCLUDE a @embedrel attribute rather than  
>> authors must OMIT an @alt attribute. In the latter case its not  
>> possible to distinguish from sloppy HTML 4 or HTML5 authoring from  
>> conforming HTML5 authoring.

Interesting proposal. So by explicitly including the @embedrel authors
are either marking up their content to reflect whether images, such as
icons etc are purely decorative or to let the UA/User know that they
have consciously left out the description of the image. I am a little
unsure how authors will get their heads around this. Especially when
suggesting using @embedrel to say to users of assistive technology that
this image is missing an alt attribute because, 1) they haven't been
bothered to describe it or 2) an editor hasn't included it. This also
seems to me to imply another layer to the authoring process, especially
when you look at the following:

>> 1)  <img>
>> 2) <img embedrel='missing'>
>> the value of embedrel is 'missing'. These all reflect the important  
>> information that the alternate for this content is missing. It  
>> doesn't matter whether an authoring tool couldn't provide the  
>> information (2), or its simply a careless author (1) or not  
>> targeted at all to be accessible (2) in an email application. 



So I guess this could be a situation where an author of the webpage has
been given unfamiliar (to them) content by someone to mark up. The
content is not a domain that the developer is familiar with or qualified
to comment on, so he/she states. "Here is an image, there is some
important  information in this image but its missing an alt description
as whoever wrote this piece  didn't include it and I as a mere web
developer am not in a position to comment, and as a result you (as a
user of AT) may not fully understand what is going on here"?


Is this correct?

> We've discussed a bit further off-list, and he seemed to share the same
> goals.


Received on Saturday, 18 August 2007 11:30:15 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:51:33 UTC