RE: figcaption NOT an replacement for alt in HTML5

I agree with what you are saying.  In fact I proposed that yesterday on the
HTML5 call.

However, I was informed that before I joined the HTML5 working group, they
came to a consensus on this issue after much discussion and reflection, and
have allowed this exception. I don't think that will change given that HTML5
is going to candidate recommendation. It would be a normative change. It's
usually not a good idea to revisit issues that were achieved on a consensus
because it undermines the health of the group and puts everything into

But it does not appear in any way that they are asking us to create the same
exception. WCAG is about making websites more accessible, the wording that
they have chosen in HTML5 makes it clear that they are discouraging it is
less accessible. 

David MacDonald

CanAdapt Solutions Inc.
Tel:  613.235.4902
  Adapting the web to all users
            Including those with disabilities

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-----Original Message-----
From: Alastair Campbell [] 
Sent: January 17, 2014 4:35 AM
To: David MacDonald
Subject: RE: figcaption NOT an replacement for alt in HTML5

Hi David,

That makes a lot of sense from an HTML5 spec point of view but there is
still a niggling issue for me:

The test procedure in a technique for using figcaption to meet 1.1.1 would
have to include something like: 
"Check that there was no way of including an alt text when publishing".

That is fine if you're testing your own site, but unhelpful for testing
other people's website and places a requirement on the tester to have
knowledge of the back-end administration area. 

ATAG inherits from WCAG for alt text, which hasn't (so far) had an exception
for alt text on an images. I suspect the AUWG (including me!) would need to
modify the ATAG spec around this, although I'm not sure how yet.

Trying to look at this from all points of view (content, UA, AT) I'd be a
lot more comfortable is there were not an exception for alt text, it leads
to a lot of complications.

What about modifying the advice in HTML5 so that the image should include a
short, 'static' alt text as Greg suggested, or even a null alt.

In that way you would meet the HTML5 spec (almost) as easily as missing out
the alt text, and the criteria for meeting WCAG are still that the image
should be described.


-----Original Message-----
From: David MacDonald [] 
Sent: 16 January 2014 21:27
Cc: 'Steve Faulkner';
Subject: figcaption NOT an replacement for alt in HTML5

Steve Faulkner and I had a good discussion about figure/figcaption elements
during the html5 call today. There are a few important things that may help
bring clarity to the discussion. The HTML 5 spec only has one specific use
case when the figcaption could replace alt text. And that is when the alt
text is not available at the time of publication. It includes two important

 Note: Such cases are to be kept to an absolute minimum. If there is *even
the slightest possibility* of the author having the ability to provide real
alternative text, then *it would not be acceptable to omit the alt

Note: Since some users cannot use images at all (e.g. because they are
blind) the alt attribute is only allowed to be omitted when no text
alternative is available and none can be made available, as in the above
examples. " =====

I must confess that I was among those who thought HTML5 said the
<figcaption> element was freely interchangeable with the ALT inside a
<figure> element, even though the limitation is spelled out in the document
in two places. 

HTML5 provides no basis for a WCAG Sufficient technique on this. I think
this will also help inform the greater discussion around F65. Because I
believe most of us thought that there already was an alternative to ALT text
allowed in HTML 5 which set a precedent. Any discussion we have about
allowing substitutes for ALT, (aria-labelledby, aria-label ...) will have to
stand on their own merits without a precedent in HTML 5.

Testing of figcaption with assistive technology is here 

David MacDonald

CanAdapt Solutions Inc.
Tel:  613.235.4902
  Adapting the web to all users
            Including those with disabilities

Received on Friday, 17 January 2014 10:00:06 UTC