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

From: Michael A Squillace <masquill@us.ibm.com>
Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 09:17:53 -0500
To: "Laura Carlson" <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
Cc: "Al Gilman" <alfred.s.gilman@ieee.org>, "Michael Cooper" <cooper@w3.org>, "Judy Brewer" <jbrewer@w3.org>, "HTML5 WG" <public-html@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org, wai-xtech@w3.org, wai-xtech-request@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF0C832FD5.526F39E5-ON8525737E.004C5B6F-8625737E.004E8ABC@us.ibm.com>
Three points in favor of keeping the Alt attribute, some of which have 
been made but which I can't refrain from underscoring as a blind 
developer/content author/internet user:

1. The semantics and semantic inferences that are possible with alt text 
(in most cases) cannot be denied. The example involving, "Page containing 
20 photos of "sleeping cats" with alt text," from Steve Faulkner


demonstrates this; I'd rather have flicker put titles of pictures in as 
alt attributes and be able to discern some relationship, say, between the 
first three photos than have Jaws read out the image src attribute, which, 
in most cases, is useless to me. Moreover, such text makes it possible for 
a sighted friend to point me to the particular pictures, which I might 
then download or point out to others; I am not, as a blind web user, lost 
in a conversation amongst sighted friends.

2. Lachlan Hunt writes, "Making alt technically optional ...just 
acknowledges the reality of the situation in
the hope of reducing the prevalence of poor quality, automatically 
generated alt text." 


This argument is especially disconcerting to me as it simply states that, 
when insufficient tooling for producing the requisite attributes exists or 
when content authors are simply using attributes (or markup in general), 
that we simply make the markup optional.  There are examples in abundance 
on the web where tables are not automatically marked up properly by tools 
or manually by authors - are we next going to make table headers, 
summaries, and captions optional as well? The solution, here, points to 
the tooling, not the HTML specification.

3. I am relatively new to the W3C and so not familiar with the particular 
individuals with whom I am conversing. However, it concerns me that fewer 
people with disabilities are involved in these conversations. The mere 
fact that little investigation into the actual ommission of the alt 
attribute for end-users alarms me as an AT user. I know that the W3C 
process is free and open to all, but the seeming lack of input of PWDs 
that this discussion implies ought to be addressed.

--> Mike Squillace
IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center
Austin, TX



"Laura Carlson" <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com> 
Sent by: wai-xtech-request@w3.org
10/23/2007 08:04 AM

wai-xtech@w3.org, "Al Gilman" <alfred.s.gilman@ieee.org>, "Judy Brewer" 
<jbrewer@w3.org>, "Michael Cooper" <cooper@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org
"HTML5 WG" <public-html@w3.org>
Request for PFWG WAI review of Omitting alt Attribute for Critical Content

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:

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
Robert Burns
HTML WG Members
Received on Wednesday, 24 October 2007 14:19:11 UTC

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