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Re: Alt is not a description (was Re: when to use longdesc for images)

From: Tina Holmboe <tina@greytower.net>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2004 14:32:53 +0100 (CET)
Message-Id: <200412211332.iBLDWrZX023352@asterix.andreasen.se>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

On 21 Dec, Matthew J. Giustino wrote:

> 2)The second example of that page;
> <A HREF="home.htm"><IMG SRC="home.gif" ALT="Link to the Home
> page."></A>

> Which is a clear example of how "alt" is a description.

  It is a clear example of a common, and long-standing,
  misunderstanding. This:

    <A HREF="home.htm">
     <IMG SRC="home.gif" ALT="Link to the Home page."></A>

  says, in effect: "The link Link to the home page goes to home.htm"
  while a rewritten

    <A HREF="home.htm">
     <IMG SRC="home.gif" ALT="Home page."></A>

  gives the user the same information, without the repetition. The alt
  attribute is there to provide equivalent information in the case
  images cannot be loaded or seen.

  Consider it in this light: what exactly is the image meant to convey?
  Forgot for a moment exactly what it looks like; what information is it
  meant to give the user? Emotional response? (Cute puppy) Information?
  (A valid markup icon) Layout? ('shimmer' gif)

  Let's take a silly example.

    <img src="R9-4a.gif"
          alt="Image of a red circle with a red line over a hand">

  This is a descriptive alternative text of the US R9-4a street sign. If
  you want to tell someone what it -looks like-, then the above is
  great. If, however, you want to use it on your page to state that your
  chauffeurs do not pick up hitch-hikers, then it is wholly
  inappropriate and should be:

    <img src="R9-4a.gif"
          alt="Our chauffeurs do not pick up hitch-hikers!">

  That second example on the wcag page mean to convey that it is a link
  to the "homepage". It does this. Twice. It need a rewrite without

  I can warmly recommend Alan Flavell's excellent "Use of ALT texts in
  IMGs" (http://www.htmlhelp.com/feature/art3.htm) which is as close to
  final on the topic as we are likely to get.

 -    Tina Holmboe                    Greytower Technologies
   tina@greytower.net                http://www.greytower.net/
   [+46] 0708 557 905
Received on Tuesday, 21 December 2004 13:32:57 UTC

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