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Re: Request for PFWG WAI review of Omitting alt Attribute for Critical Content

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 18:24:14 +0200
Message-Id: <>
To: <wai-xtech@w3.org>


At 18:06 23/10/2007, Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:

>i would like to cite a specific example, which has been cited by the
>co-editor of the HTML5 editor's draft, to illustrate the problem...
>There is an example of a part of a classical poem in the <img> element
>section (search for "On either side the river lie").
>the "classical poem" example cited, follows:
><QUOTE cite="http://www.w3.org/html/wg/html5">
><pre><h1>The Lady of Shalott</h1>
><strong><p><img src="shalott.jpeg" alt=""></p></strong>
><p>On either side the river lie<br>
>Long fields of barley and of rye,<br>
>That clothe the wold and meet the sky;<br>
>And through the field the road run by<br>
>To many-tower'd Camelot;<br>
>And up and down the people go,<br>
>Gazing where the lilies blow<br>
>Round an island there below,<br>
>The island of Shalott.</p></pre>
>this example is problematic for several reasons:
>1. line breaks carry no semantic meaning -- why not a containing element
>that indicates a line of poetry, much as <LI> and </LI> indicate the
>beginning and end of a list item?

The XHMTL 2 draft proposes an element for this: the "l" element:

>2. PRE does not express any meaningful semantics, nor does it lend
>structure -- other than the visual illusion of structure -- to the text
>contained in a PRE container...

The PRE element is completely redundant here, if I understand the example

>4. this example is used to illustrate the contentious claim that:
><QUOTE cite="http://www.w3.org/html/wg/html5">
>Examples where the image is purely decorative despite being relevant
>would include things like a photo of the Black Rock City landscape in a
>blog post about an event at Burning Man, or an image of a painting
>inspired by a poem, on a page reciting that poem. The following snippet
>shows an example of the latter case (only the first verse is included in
>this snippet):

The example of a painting inspired by a poem looks badly chosen; I can't
think of a context where the image would be decorative if the text of the
poem is also provided. If this example would occur a real website that I was
evaluating, this argument would strike me as a poor excuse for leaving the
alt attribute empty and I would flag it as a failure of checkpoint 1.1
(WCAG 1.0) or SC 1.1 (WCAG 2.0). Why not tell the user that there is an
image of a painting inspired by the poem? Why would this interaction
between a visual art and poetry only be of interest to "normally" sighted
(And Gregory provides even more reasons why the image should be described.)

>why should those processing the poem non-visually be bereft of a
>description of the accompanying illustration? obviously, the illustration
>captures an artist's conception of the "lady of shalott", which could aid
>an individual's understanding of the poem, and which could enhance the
>readers understanding of the cross-fertilization of poetry and art in a
>particular era and a particular style...
>why an illustration such as that contained in the sample code be null alt
>texted?  why should it validate without a descriptor, in particular, a
>long description of the painting -- not only those who cannot see may
>need a description of the painting, but also those with color blindness
>and those with an extremely restricted viewport, who may need guidance
>through the illustration...
>if the illustration isn't worthy of description, then it isn't worthy of
>being included in the first place -- one cannot, as the draft currently
>does, classify this image as "A purely decorative image that doesn't add
>any information but is still specific to the surrounding content", as the
>example you cited is NOT a purely decorative image, but an interpretation
>of the poem it is being used to illustrate -- therefore, it demands both
>a terse and a long description...
>You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of
>focus.                                           -- Mark Twain
>Gregory J. Rosmaita: oedipus@hicom.net
>    Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/
>           Oedipus' Online Complex: http://my.opera.com/oedipus
>---- Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com> wrote:
> > The HTML 5 working group is questioning and debating the need for the
> > alt attribute on critical content. In fact, the current HTML 5
> > Editor's Draft allows instances where critical content is allowed to
> > have no alt attribute on the img element.
> >
> > Alternate text is essential for accessibility. There needs to be a
> > markup solution to indicate whether or not the alternate text of an
> > image is critical to understand the content - omitting such an
> > important attribute is ambiguous, and doesn't help anyone. The problem
> > is differentiating between ignorant and intentional lack of text.
> >
> > The issue is detailed at:
> > http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/IssueAltAttribute
> >
> > In order for this debate to reach a satisfactory resolution, review of
> > this issue and advice from the PFWG and WAI on the potential
> > accessibility impact of omitting alt attribute for critical content in
> > HTML 5 would be appreciated.
> >
> > Thank you.
> >
> > Best Regards,
> >
> > Laura L. Carlson
> > Steve Faulkner
> > Gregory J. Rosmaita
> > Joshue O Connor
> > Philip TAYLOR
> > Robert Burns
> > --
> > HTML WG Members

Best regards,


Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Dept. of Electrical Engineering - SCD
Research Group on Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 bus 2442
B-3001 Leuven-Heverlee
tel: +32 16 32 85 51

Disclaimer: http://www.kuleuven.be/cwis/email_disclaimer.htm
Received on Tuesday, 23 October 2007 16:24:39 UTC

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