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RE: Change proposals for ISSUE-31 and ISSUE-80

From: Matt May <mattmay@adobe.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 16:54:54 -0700
To: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+w3c@gmail.com>, Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
CC: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <96000FCB2ADA2F4F84F49CC99202F19922A415B315@NAMBX01.corp.adobe.com>
-----Original Message-----
From: Aryeh Gregor

> It
> seems to me that authors who use alt text overwhelmingly do so just to
> shut up validators, and I can't see how this helps anyone.  It's a
> clear case of hidden metadata.

> What data is there that directly demonstrates that alt text as
> actually used on typical websites is helpful to blind people in
> practice?  

Here, you've offered your opinion as a starting point, but demand "data" to counter it. I have to suggest that you're suffering from selection bias from working around people who place a higher value on validation than adhering to the spirit of the spec. My feel for things, which is likewise colored by working with my share of developers and designers, not to mention blind users themselves, is precisely the opposite. I'd suggest that more people produce meaningful alt text than fake it for the sake of a validator, but I don't see how anybody is going to be swayed either way.

Instead, let's look at outcomes. In the case where @alt is mandatory, even when there are bad actors inserting bogus @alt values, it is exceedingly rare that such behavior does real harm to a user who can't see that image, relative to the possibility of not having it. In every other case, the presence of alt text, even when poorly done, either improves the situation for users who need it, or is easily ignored in favor of other repair techniques.

And let's not overlook the people who, in the face of this constraint, actually do the right thing, when otherwise they'd have done nothing (which, by the way, answers your question regarding how blind users have benefited from mandatory @alt -- a benefit which must not be ignored in this discussion).

In the case where @alt is optional, it will get left out with higher frequency. That's a tautology, at least for documents that validate. The end result is that users will lose the benefit of those who did something beneficial for consumers of alt text, even if it was only to validate. I think you'll find that benefit is perceived by those consumers to far outweigh the inconvenience of encountering useless alt text elsewhere.

Received on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 23:55:37 UTC

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