W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > January to March 2002

Re: Creating accessible tables for layout and data: alt attributes

From: Jim Byrne <j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 11:49:52 +0000
To: W3c_Access <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B87EDFE0.D96A%j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk>
on 31/1/02 10:52 am, Jouni Heikniemi at jth@dns.mikrobitti.fi wrote:

> On Thu, 31 Jan 2002, Jim Byrne wrote:
>> I like to provide as much text on my pages as possible, just in case a
>> search engine robot comes along and decides to add my page to a searchable
>> database.
> I refrain from commenting your decision on the alt text issue, since you
> obviously now know the practices and common suggestions made by the
> accessibility society - and have made up your mind accordingly. Your site,
> your rules. However, I'd like to make a point about the paragraph quoted
> above.
> You shouldn't aim at getting high search engine index ratings by using alt
> texts which have no real relation to the content of the page. If I
> _really_ want to know something about, say, "pink flowers", I wouldn't
> want Google to return a set of web accessibility pages simply because they
> have pink flowers as their decoration.
> However, this issue is debatable since many search engines support image
> search which do index the images by their alt texts (among other things).
> Therefore, someone searching for an image with pink flowers might actually
> benefit from your "wrong" use of alt texts.
> My suggestion is that you promote accessibility and generic text-mode
> readability by leaving the alt texts empty for the decorations, but
> produce a separate gallery page ("images by me" or something similar)
> with appropriate titles and alts for those who are specifically looking
> for images. The search engines will index that one just as well.
> If you insist on leaving the alt texts into the text, you might consider
> using [ ] (alt="[ decorative photo of pink flowers ]") around the alts.
> Though this could have adverse effects with speech synthesis, it will help
> pure text-mode browsing by clearly pointing out what is alt and what is
> normal text.
> Jouni


Thanks for your comments - I have found them very helpful and I can see
where you are coming from.

I am trying to make a single page accessible to everyone- including those
who use graphic browsers with images turned on and off. Visual design is
also important and the photos have the additional purpose of breaking up the
text and making the page more accessible in the broad sense for sighted
visitors. Putting the photos on a separate page is not the answer for me. I
do have a photo gallery at
http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/gallery/jan02.html and I will change the way
I use the alt attributes on my photo gallery as a result of this discussion
- but the article we are talking about is not a gallery it is an article
that has photos on it.

 I could try to have different versions of the same document tailored to
suit the needs of each audience - but even then it is unlikely that the
results would make every user happy. Some people using text only browsers
are keen to know what the content of a photograph is and some are not. So we
are stuck with making compromises. As I said in my last e-mail some of my
photograph have a function even if a subtle one.

You only need to come across the phrase 'Decorative photo: pink flowers' or
'Decorative photo: street sign' a couple of times before it is clear that
there is some sort of convention being used - and the text is not part of
the main discourse.

We will have to agree to disagree.

All the best,

Jim Byrne Project Director, The Making Connections Unit, Glasgow Caledonian
University, Glasgow G4 OBA, 0141 331 3893

Everything you need to know about publishing accessible information on the

Services: Website Accessibility Audits, Accessible Web design, Accessible
Website Management Training.

The Making Connections Unit: http://www.mcu.org.uk/
Scottish Disability Information Mailing list:
Received on Thursday, 31 January 2002 06:50:10 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 17 January 2020 20:36:07 UTC