Re: [html4all] HTML5 Alternative Text, and Authoring Tools

Hello David,

On 14/05/2008, Dave Singer <> wrote:
> Gez
>  your page says
>  "When an authoring tool doesn't have anything useful to put in for the alt
> text, the tool shouldn't put anything in. A good authoring tool will check
> for missing alt text and offer to assist the user in repairing the content.
> If an author is adamant they're not going to provide alt text, there is no
> requirement that says the authoring tool should provide it in place of the
> author. "
>  Generally if I am designing a tool, I want to make sure I always generate
> valid output -- that I am not dependent on my user.  You seem to be saying
> here that the tool must conform to the rules by producing non-conformant
> output.  This may be a difficult message to get across. :-)
>  "The alt attribute is mandatory and MUST NOT be omitted.  If the user of an
> authoring tool does not provide alt text, the authoring tool MUST NOT insert
> the alt attribute."

The responsibility for accessibility doesn't fall purely on an
authoring tool, although they surely have some responsibility.
Accessibility is the responsibility of the content author, the
authoring tool they use, and the user agent that the end-user chooses
to use. If any of these stakeholders fail in their responsibilities,
then the end result is likely to be inaccessible to some users.

If an authoring tool isn't provided anything that can be used as
alternative text, then the authoring tool certainly should not try and
guess what the alternative should be, as only the content author could
know with any certainty what a suitable replacement for an image could
be. The most sensible thing to do in this scenario would be to not
include an alt attribute at all, as it hasn't been provided by the

>From what I understand, at this point, my opinion is completely
aligned with members from the HTML5 community. The difference in our
opinions is that although I would suggest the authoring tool has done
the right thing for this particular scenario, the HTML5 working group
want the resulting output to be considered to be in compliance with
the specification. I disagree with this viewpoint, as the resulting
structure is inconceivable to some users with visual impairments and
cognitive disabilities, in a way that the resulting structure would be
inconceivable to sighted users if the src attribute wasn't provided in
a browser that renders images. That is the structure is inaccessible,
and couldn't possibly be considered valid.

Lowering conformance requirements so that authors who cannot be
bothered to provide alternative text, or allowing broken authoring
tools to be considered compliant, obviously goes a long way from
solving the fundamental problem here - that of providing content that
is accessible by users with disabilities.

>  I'm not sure the spec. editors would be entirely happy with this (heck, I
> am not sure I am or even that you really are).

I suspect that will depend on your principles. I'm certainly not happy
with authors that fail to provide alternative text for important
images. I'm also sure that the spec editors and you are not happy with
content that isn't in compliance with the specification. Lowering
conformance requirements so that any input is in conformance with the
specification is also inappropriate; to be considered compliant, the
structure should contain a text alternative for non-text objects.


Supplement your vitamins

Received on Wednesday, 14 May 2008 22:36:27 UTC