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Re: screen readers, browsers, & the reporting of ALT on & in image maps

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 11:27:42 -0500
Message-Id: <4.1.20000112104509.00a634d0@pop3.concentric.net>
To: A.Flavell@physics.gla.ac.uk
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, alan!

you seem to have missed my point -- my suggestion that len use the ALT text
quote Select A Direction unquote for the image that comprises the image map is
not only what i would recommend using in this instance; it also underscores the
importance of the proper usage of textual alternatives...

nor is quote Picture of a Compass, used as an image map unquote unreasonable,
considering the lack of support for image map hotspots in mainstream UAs with
image loading turned off...  if i were fully sighted (which i am not) and i was
surfing with image loading turned off, i would be more interested in knowing
that there is an image map on a page than what form that image map took, for,
like as not, as a sighted user, i would use my browser's "Show Image" command
to reveal the image qua image to me...

good ALT text conveys the purpose of a graphic -- LONGDESC and the D-Link are
for describing the graphic qua graphic...

if an image is used as an activatable item, the user needs to know

1. what is the purpose of the image (i.e. a link to another page, a mailto
link, an image map, etc.)
2. how to activate the image
3. whether or not activating discrete areas of the image will cause an event to

for all i care, the image map len used could have been an ashtray, with each
cigarette butt identified as an AREA that led to information about a particular
type of cigarette...

the content of the eye candy matters far less than the aural black hole it can
cause...  and, whether or not (for whatever reason) you are capable of
perceiving the image or not, the important thing is that the information -- in
this case, that there are 4 links -- is conveyed to the user...  if you can
view images, you can easily "Show Image" so that the image map is rendered, or,
if you can't see images, you can choose to follow a D-link or LONGDESC (when
supported) to learn exactly what the graphic represents, but as soon as a
graphic is used as an image map, it ceases to be a graphic qua graphic, and
becomes a navigational mechanism...

as for the genesis of the suggestion that quote Picture of a Compass, used as
an image map unquote is concerned, i have worked for commercial web developers
who were concerned about accessibility, and they would never have allowed me to
ALT text the compass "Select a Direction", as they wanted people (even those
who couldn't see, didn't have an image viewer, or who were surfing with images
off) to know about their glorious art work, so i have had occasion to resort to
appending a generic ALT declaration, such as "Picture  of a Compass" with an
explanatory phrase, such as "Used as an Image map" or "please select a

obviously, the first solution (alt texting the image to read "Select a
Direction"), is my preferred approach -- i merely used the other possible ALT
text as an illustration of how one can make the best out of an oft-troublesome
situation, where the sponsoring entity curtails the implementor's latitude to
implement common sensical solutions...

i question, however, your suggestion that the phrase "Picture of a Compass" be
used as a hyperlink title -- especially since screen readers tend to announce
the TITLE rather than the ALT text for a graphically defined hyperlink...  i
had originally included using a title for the hyperlink, but in the case of an
image map, which is a graphical navigational mechanism, the TITLE for the A and
the ALT for the image itself, would have to be identical...

moreover, the proper use of TITLE for a hyperlink is to convey extended
information about the link (or, in this case, links) available to the user...


At 12:32 PM 1/12/00 +0000, you wrote:
>On Wed, 12 Jan 2000, Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
>> 4. Lynx32 renders the ALT text Picture of a Compass as a hyperlink (which
>> suggests that a better textual equivalent could be "Picture of a Compass, 
>> as in image map" or (my preference),
>This is a delicate point, but I'd suggest as a prima facie assumption
>in web design (this was expressed early on in web style authoring
>advice at the W3C, or might even pre-date it) "don't mention the
>mechanics".  Sometimes, it's true, one has to deviate from this
>"ideal", but doing so often causes more difficulties in other browsing
>situations than it solves in the situation(s) that the author had in
>_If_ this imagemap is going to be entirely serviceable as a list of
>links (which is how it's presented in Lynx), then why would it be
>necessary to pester the non-visual reader with the fact that the
>original was designed as an imagemap?  And, in the case which you are
>presenting, I'd suggest that it is indeed entirely serviceable in that
>way, at least when used with browsers that are capable of that kind of
>usage.  If, on the other hand, it cannot be practically used in that
>way (for example, where the original is a street-plan whose only
>purpose is to exhibit geographical relationships) then of course some
>other approach is needed.
>> "Select A Direction"
>Now, that seems an excellent solution, to me.  As an ALT text, it
>represents a functional _alternative_ to the original visually-based
>design. Any reference to the visual appearance of the non-viewed
>image, if required, would be better delegated to the TITLE and/or
>LONGDESC attributes (traditionally: D-link).
>That seems to me to be the correct _authoring_ approach. Browsers then
>stand to be rated on their ability to support this alternative
>function when images cannot be viewed.
>(As an aside - there's no reason why every web browser on the market
>has to do a good job of handling every kind of usage.  There's a niche
>for specialised browsers that concentrate on supporting particular
>pattern(s) of usage.  For example, you wouldn't expect WebTV to be an
>effective speaking browser, any more than you'd expect a text browser
>to display images on a character-cell display.)
>> when one does follow the image map link, the four AREAs are listed in an
>> ordered list
>>         * [1] North
>>         * [2] South
>>         * [3] East
>>         * [4] West
>>  on a page whose TITLE is the ALT test defined for the image "Picture of a
>> Compass",
>"Picture of a Compass" might well, as I remarked above, qualify as a
>TITLE attribute for this IMG element, but as an ALT (i.e _alternative_
>text to be used when the picture is not being presented visually) it
>seems to me to be counterproductive, as it distracts attention towards
>something which the reader not only cannot see, but cannot use in that
>way - and which they do not _need_ in order to be able to use the
>facility in the _alternative_ text-based manner.
>best regards

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
     -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
   WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Wednesday, 12 January 2000 11:19:25 UTC

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