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Re: [html4all] some reflections on @alt usage

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2008 19:15:23 +0200
To: "Gez Lemon" <gez.lemon@gmail.com>, HTML4All <list@html4all.org>
Cc: "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>
Message-ID: <op.uabzjxoowxe0ny@pc085.coreteam.oslo.opera.com>

On Mon, 28 Apr 2008 15:37:01 +0200, Gez Lemon <gez.lemon@gmail.com> wrote:

> On 28/04/2008, Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com> wrote:
>>  Optional alt is about a belief that validation is more important to  
>> people
>>  (in particular tool developers) than accessibility. If that turns out  
>> to
>>  be true, then it makes sense. If that turns out to be false, then it
>>  doesn't. But we have to have some research - both sides of the argument
>>  are currently based on gut feeling and instinct. There is a real issue
>>  here, and there is very little real information being provided to  
>> settle
>>  the question rationally.
>
> I think the issue should be about the integrity of the structure.

I think the issue should be about what makes the most content most  
accessible.

> If
> alternate text isn't provided for important images, then we know it
> isn't accessible to people who cannot readily change an aspect of
> themselves to make it accessible.

Sure, couldn't agree more.

> Alternate text maintains the
> integrity of the structure to ensure that it is accessible to
> everyone.

When done right. And I think there is universal agreement on that. (There  
is not universal agreement on how to do it, and I think that some of the  
stuff in the HTML5 draft I last read was nonsense, suggesting that there  
was nothing to be done when this was clearly not the case).

The issue is what happens when things go wrong.

> Lowering the integrity requirements to make poor authoring tools
> compliant doesn't address the issue that important images without
> alternate text are inaccessible.

I am not proposing lowering the requirements on poorly-designed authoring  
tools. They should be castigated like crazy for not making it easy and  
friendly to include alt text. I happen to include My.Opera.com in the list  
of things that need to be improved.

The problem is poor advice to tool developers (which we need to get out of  
the spec), and more so lazy authors. Unfortunately, tools cannot always  
force authors to do the right thing, and the question is what they should  
do in that case.

> Badly written alt text being a
> greater evil is misdirection. They're both extremely bad scenarios for
> accessibility.

They are. But one scenario is worse, because it makes it harder to  
identify, and therefore repair, problems.

> The markup language should ensure the integrity of the
> data.

Indeed. This includes the ability to improve the data where necessary, and  
that relies on having clear ways of knowing what type of error we are  
dealing with in each case.

Note that I do not yet have any position one way or another on whether alt  
should be required for validity. I have a very strong and simple position  
on whether we need to get better alt into more pages, and on whether pages  
that skip doing that are any good. But I don't want to lead us down a path  
that actually makes accessibility worse, just because we are saying the  
right thing as we go. I would rather we look carefully at where the paths  
lead, and then choose the one that gets to the result that we are looking  
for.

Cheers

Chaals


-- 
Charles McCathieNevile  Opera Software, Standards Group
     je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals   Try Opera 9.5: http://snapshot.opera.com
Received on Monday, 28 April 2008 17:16:34 UTC

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