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Re: Accessibility extensions to Mozilla user interface

From: Ian B. Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Date: 12 Mar 2003 12:35:08 -0500
To: Aaron Leventhal <aaronl@netscape.com>
Cc: w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
Message-Id: <1047490508.6458.73.camel@seabright>

On Mon, 2003-03-10 at 23:46, Aaron Leventhal wrote:
> Ian and Jon,
> Thank you for all of the information regarding how the various UAAG
> checkpoints relate to this discussion.

You're welcome.

> First, let me address some points you have made:
> - We don't yet allow access to tooltips via the keyboard. As far as I
> know there was a patch written to include access to this information
> in the properties for any focusable item. It's often requested,
> especially for ALT, not necessarily for TITLE.


> - It's possible to configure Mozilla so that ALT text is rendered in
> place of an image.


I wonder whether it might be valuable to provide access to
longdesc in the same mode, as in:

 "this is the alt text" [londesc]

(I haven't thought about this in detail.)

> - We don't currently have a bug filed for the ability to suppress
> automatic tooltips that occur on mouseover. No one has yet requested
> this.

I think tooltips probably deserve more attention than they get.
For instance, users with low vision or color blindness may wish
to style tooltip text. 

> - I didn't realize that a tooltip was considered a separate viewport.
> Although it does overlay the contents of the screen, I'm not sure
> whether it should really qualify as a full-fledged viewport, although
> apparantly that's been the intention of UAAG all along. I haven't
> researched that issue at all.

In the strictest of UAAG 1.0 terms, it's a viewport. However, that
doesn't mean that it needs to implement every functionality every
other viewport implements. For instance, if you can't interact with
any of the elements in the tooltip, you don't need content focus
there. Also, I don't expect tooltips to come with much of a user

Still, there are things that one should be able to do such
as use style sheets to affect rendering of text size and colors,
control automatic behavior, control blinking (if that's possible),

Still, I agree with you that there probably aren't too many
UAAG 1.0 requirements that apply to a viewport with such limited

> Anyway, I really shouldn't limit my question to how it relates to
> UAAG. The flamewar in question is specific to HTML (so perhaps I
> should be asking this question on the HTML list?)
> It's difficult to summarize the flamewar, which has 267 comments so
> far, but I'll do my best:
> The issue is what to do on mouseover for html:img, etc. when there is
> no TITLE attribute, but there is an ALT attribute.

Thank you for the following summary!

> * "Joe User" wants to see ALT text show in a tooltip on mouseover,
> especially for older sites which will never be changed to use TITLE
> for this purpose. He's used to mousing over to images (e.g. news topic
> images) to see some related text. IE, Netscape 4.7 and other browsers
> do it, so Mozilla/Gecko/Netscape seem broken when they don't. It makes
> him mad because web pages aren't working the way he wants.

> * "Standards guy" wants to do the right thing relative to W3C
> standards. He says that ALT should never be used as a replacement for
> TITLE, because they have two distinct purposes. He says that ALT is
> meant to be an image replacement, and TITLE is meant to be used for
> tooltips. He believes that blurring the line between the two will ruin
> the web because people will write poor ALT text. It makes him mad that
> people don't understand that web standards are important.
> I believe a standards case could be made to support either argument --
> which is why I think it would be helpful for the W3C to have an
> official position on this exact situation (call it dueling text
> equivalents if you like) to finally settle the argument. I hope the
> question isn't too specific for that.

I don't believe that the word "tooltip" appears in HTML 4 or XHTML 1.
I looked in HTML 2.0 (RFC1866) and didn't see it there, either.

As far as I know, HTML specs do not say anything about using title,
alt, or anything else for tooltips. UAAG 1.0 doesn't either.

In short, I don't know that there are any W3C standards to point to
for definitive info on tooltip behavior. 

It's possible to ask the HTML WG to state in XHTML 2.0
more explicitly what user agents that provide tooltips (or their
equivalent) should do. However, such a requirement on behavior
in this specific case (though common) may be too detailed for the
WG's tastes.

What about allowing the user to configure what to render for tooltips?

 [ ] Render both title and alt (Default)
     In this case, if both are present, distinguish them.

 [ ] Render title, but if not present render alt.

 [ ] Render title only, even if alt present.

 [ ] Render alt only, even if title present.

 [ ] No tooltips

Are all these useful? Any others?

While you probably wish to avoid too many configuration
options, you may be able to satisfy users in a timely
manner this way. I'm not sure that a W3C spec will solve
this for you in a timely manner. 

I am still interested in hearing from the WAI PF folks about
whether they think that a format specification should talk
about this type of behavior explicitly, whether this
belongs in UAAG 1.0 Techniques (nothing there currently),
or where else this might be dealt with.

Thank you,

 - Ian

> My question is basically (b) as you have outlined below. 
> Ian B. Jacobs wrote:
> > On Mon, 2003-03-10 at 12:32, Aaron Leventhal wrote:
> >   
> > > What is the UAAG's position regarding the showing of alt text as tooltips?
> > >     
> > 
> > Hi Aaron,
> > 
> > To help keep this discussion focussed, I'd like to clarify:
> > 
> > a) Are you asking very generally "Are tooltips ok, whatever their 
> >    source in the document?" Or, "Is it ok to pop up a small window
> >    to present information to the user on hover?"
> > 
> > b) Are you asking "In HTML (or some other format), what are legitimate
> >    sources of text that a user agent could consider for a tooltip?"
> >    And in particular, "How do I deal with the presence/absence of alt 
> >    and title?"

Ian Jacobs (ij@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
Tel:                     +1 718 260-9447
Received on Wednesday, 12 March 2003 12:42:36 UTC

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