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


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...

in response to a post on Poetic Semantics, archived at:

Ian Hickson cited a specific example contained in the current 
editor's draft of HTML5, in which it is stated: 

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="">
<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?

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...

4. this example is used to illustrate the contentious claim that: 

<QUOTE cite="">
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): 

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:
   Camera Obscura:
          Oedipus' Online Complex:

---- Laura Carlson <> 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:
> 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

Received on Tuesday, 23 October 2007 16:07:06 UTC