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RE: ALT as required attribute

From: Gerard Torenvliet <g_torenvliet@sympatico.ca>
Date: Mon, 3 Feb 2003 15:36:18 -0500
To: "'Jim Ley'" <jim@jibbering.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <D9ABD8212AFB094C855045AD80FB40DD190026@1WFMAIL>


The plug-in can be found here:


My point about Mozilla not displaying Alt text as a tool tip was this: If
Alt text isn't supposed to be displayed as a tool tip, it should not be. By
no longer displaying Alt as a tooltip, Mozilla follows specifications.

CSS, on the other hand, are supposed to be used when rendering a page. Thus
it is not a contradiction to be pleased that Mozilla does not display Alt
text but does take CSS in account when displaying a page. (If Mozilla
chooses to barf on non-compliant CSS, that is their right as well.  If the
CSS is non-compliant, how is the agent to know what the author's intent in
writing it was?)

On the "Alt text only for non-sighted issue", I don't think I said anything
different. What I did say is that Alt text should represent what a fully
sighted reader would see.  The implication is that Title text can
productively be used to go beyond the visual and into the meanings of things
(icons, for instance). I don't believe this is incorrect; if it is, I'd like
to know how and will gratefully stand corrected.

Iconography is a tricky issue. I would suggest that the websites you use
that have poor iconography (i.e., that which some users cannot understand)
should avail themselves of the use of both the Title tag and a trained
graphic designer. There is nothing wrong with using the same text in both
Alt and Title; my point is that they can be different.

Also note that the HTML 4.01 specification does allow for the use of Title
as a tool-tip; for alt text the door to this usage is not even opened.


Finally, on my point of education, I agree that users should be served. I
believe that users are best served by user agents that insist on
standards-compliant HTML. (And you know how I interpret the standards on the
topic of Alt text.)

For more info, read the authors of Mozilla responding specifically to this


Best regards,

P.S. Getting this right isn't easy. It is productive.

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf
Of Jim Ley
Sent: Monday, February 03, 2003 2:52 PM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: ALT as required attribute

"Gerard Torenvliet" <g_torenvliet@sympatico.ca> wrote in message
> However, on reflection I've found it to be a good pain because it makes me
> more conscientious.

Which suggests that Mozilla also throwing away CSS would make you even more
conscientious, on ensuring your site was accessible without CSS, that's
clearly silly, the point being Mozilla is a User Agent, and not an authoring
tool.  It shouldn't be used to educate authors, it should be for the benefit
of users.

> Alt text should present text equivalents
> (equivalents only, nothing more than a sighted reader would get through
> looking at a graphic),

Unfortunately you're falling into the common fault, of assuming that ALT is
purely for those who cannot see the image, when it's actually for those who
cannot get the information contained in the image, despite being sighted, I
have many problems understanding iconography, and fail to understand a lot
of images needing the alternative view.  Being sighted doesn't mean I can
understand the meaning in everything I see.

> The real problem here is Internet Explorer. By insisting to be
> backwards-compatible with legacy (but non-standard) uses of the Alt
> attribute and so displaying Alt text as a tooltip if Title text doesn't
> exist, this browser fails to educate designers by example of the different
> between Alt text and Title text.

User Agents should not educate authors, they should serve their users needs,
as a user anything that makes getting at the alt text difficult fails itself
as a user agent to me.

> Rather, it should follow the lead of Mozilla: support the HTML spec, even
> when it can necessitate design changes.

No HTML specification mandates the use of TITLE or ALT as a tooltip or not,
and neither should it.

> Mozilla's way of recognizing
> backwards compatibility issues has been by offering plug-ins that turn on
> the Alt as tooltip behaviour.


Received on Monday, 3 February 2003 15:36:26 UTC

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