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Re: Accessibility of ALT texts

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 10:53:02 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: "Lois Wakeman" <lois@lois.co.uk> (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>), w3c-wai-gl@w3.org, w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
At 10:27 AM 4/10/2001, Lois Wakeman wrote:
>Not sure if you are the right person to ask, but is there any work being
>done in the CSS or WAI WGs about this?
>By default, the ALT text displayed while an image is loading is pretty small
>in most browsers, and it occurs to me that either by giving a guideline for
>user agents, or by defining a CSS pseudo-class on IMG (and perhaps one for
>tooltip-style descriptions), it would be possible to allow page authors to
>make pages more accessible. I realise that assistive technology doesn't
>require human-readable text, but it would improve things a lot for those
>people with less-than-perfect acuity, who do not need the page to be read to

Lois, I'm not sure I understand the question.  I will take a stab at
trying to guess, though. :)

When you access a page using a graphical browser, but have images
turned off, you will usually see a little box where the image is
supposed to go.  This is typically the same size as the image, which
means it cuts off some of the text.

The issues here are:

* The size of the box is defined by the size of the images as
   specified in the HTML, on most browsers.  In other words, if
   I have a 30 x 30 image and the ALT text is "Kynn Bartlett
   sitting in the park in June", you may see "Kyn" and that's
   about it.  (As you state, screenreaders will read the whole
   text anyway even if the "Kyn" is the only visible part.)

* However, on most (halfway decent) browsers there is an option
   to change this behavior so that the "box" is the size of the
   text inside.  This option exists in Opera and in Internet

* The question then becomes "what should be done about this,
   by WAI?"  There are two options.

* The first option is to suggest that web designers don't put
   in image sizes.  This probably won't fly, because image
   sizes (HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes on IMG tags) are very
   useful and popular, because they allow pages to be laid out
   before the images are done fully loading, and there's nothing
   REALLY wrong with HEIGHT and WIDTH.  So this probably isn't an
   issue for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines working

* The next option is to make this a User Agent issue.  I admit
   I haven't looked at the recent UA draft, but this might be a
   good thing to bounce to them to consider.  The idea here is to
   require that user agents ("browsers") which display ALT text
   allow the user to specify that the entire attribute be
   displayed.  This would be a relatively easy checkpoint for
   Opera and Internet Explorer to meet. ;)

* I think the UA approach is the right one, and so I will defer
   to our colleagues in the User Agent Working Group to handle
   this issue as appropriate.

* Now, it's possible that I don't understand what you mean, and
   maybe you are talking about the font size of the text or something.
   If so, feel free to correct my miscomprehension. :)


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Tel +1 949-567-7006
Received on Tuesday, 10 April 2001 13:46:06 UTC

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