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Re: null alt text

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2009 11:11:00 -0800 (PST)
To: <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
Cc: <oedipus@hicom.net>, <liam.mcgee@communis.co.uk>, <wloughborough@gmail.com>
Message-ID: <033101c987c5$8d6567b0$a8303710$@edu>

Liam McGee wrote:
> Anyone else want to pitch in on this?

Sure, I will.

Prior to the release of WebAIM's Survey results last week
[http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey/], Accessibility advocates
would have this debate (surrounding appropriate @alt) every few months (it
seemed) - with both sides eloquently stating their opinions and ideas.  I
am guilty of this as well: I have oft advocated using the pattern of
alt="[Photo - John Foliot]" or alt="[icon - Adobe PDF]" or
alt="[illustration - bar graph of user statistics]" based upon *my*
limited research and opinion (and used in all of my development work).

The WebAIM survey produced some interesting results however - and while
Jared and Co. want to do some more analysis (and perhaps even reconsider
the question and it's phrasing for the next survey), they do state: "It is
clear that there is a disconnect between what evaluators/those without
disabilities and full-time/disabled screen reader users want." - and what
the full-time/disabled screen readers generally want is some value beyond
_null for "Images [used] to enhance the mood or feel of a web page".  For
actual photos (the one used in the survey was of the White House), 80% of
respondents preferred "Photo of the White House" (no haiku there!, and
makes me feel that my pattern suggestion is not that far off the mark),
while "Identification of logos" was a completely mixed bag of results with
no clear "winner" (note, I suspect that the results were somewhat skewed
by the original question which presented 4 "stock" responses, and that
other options were not accounted for)

> Do you reject the idea that alt is co-equal equivalence

I do, and the survey tends to back me up, but again there remains much
interpretation to be done.  However, I get a sense that the terse,
informational 'bite' value of @alt seems to be the overall preference:
leave eloquence and haiku to @longdesc (listening HTML5 WG?).

And what of the notorious spacer.gif of old.  Trash-can please.  And of
purely decorative flourishes?  CSS. It's 2009 for gosh sakes, and alt=""
needs to simply disappear - if the image is important enough to put into a
document *inline*, then it is important enough to have an @alt value.
It's that simple (to me anyway)

John  Foliot
Program Manager
Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Stanford University
Tel: 650-862-4603

Soap Is a program directed by the
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Received on Thursday, 5 February 2009 19:11:50 UTC

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