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Mandatory and Important

From: Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 07:13:01 -0500
Message-ID: <1c8dbcaa0808210513u345aa855ud86e3fa9a26cea@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Doug Schepers" <schepers@w3.org>
Cc: "Karl Dubost" <karl@w3.org>, "Ian Hickson" <ian@hixie.ch>, "HTML WG" <public-html@w3.org>, "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org, "John Foliot" <foliot@wats.ca>, "Gez Lemon" <gez.lemon@gmail.com>, "Al Gilman" <alfred.s.gilman@ieee.org>, w3c-wai-pf@w3.org

Hi Doug,

In the thread, "Optional But Important (was: alt attribute - a very
simple proposal)" [1] you wrote:

> It's really important for @alt to be included when it's appropriate,
> but a "required" attribute connotes that an element cannot be
> minimally and usefully processed without that attribute.  So, my
> opinion is that @alt should not be required for validity or
> well-formedness.

When PF says "the failure of the HTML5 draft to make @alt on <img> an
across-the-board requirement (even if sometimes it has the value of
&quot;&quot;) is a bug", as they already have [1], alt should indeed
be reinstated as a requirement in the HTML5 spec. PF's advice should
not be ignored. Lowering the structural integrity requirements of a
markup language doesn't help the people that structure was intended to
help in the first place. Putting the faults of poor authoring tools
(and authors) above the needs of a feature which allows the creation
of accessible content pays no heed to PF's guidance.

The question of should HTML5 throw out mandatory alt and write
optional alt into the spec to sanction for *one* use case (so flickr
et al doesn't have to bother with accessibility, can be blessed as
valid, and corporations can rack up more profit$) is a very slippery

Optional alt is a way to codify and bless bad tools. Writing in
optional alt will give corporations more profit.

It's the elephant in the room. And until someone either comes up with
a solution that maintains the integrity of the markup while addressing
their business needs, or addresses putting the business requirements
above the integrity of the markup, everyone is wasting time arguing
about edge cases.

src is to sighted users
alt is to some users with disabilities

>From an architectural point of view, the structure of an image isn't
complete without alternate text.

Omit the src attribute and sighted users have no content.
Omit the alternate text and users with disabilities have no content.

As Josh O Connor stated before on the WAI-xtech list, it would be akin
to uploading blank images with nothing in them.

It could also be akin to saying that because people take bad photos,
the src attribute should be optional.

Currently the alt attribute is the PRIMARY method of supplying content
to users with disabilities. Yes, HTML5 may another methods. One
suggestion as noted in the Wiki (John Foliot's idea) [1] is:

Explicitly note and provide as many other ways of providing alt text
as possible. Having *any* of the methods below of expanding upon the
visual-only content present would thus render the <img> element
conformant. Any other HTML 5 implementation of <img> which lacks *any*
of the provided means of "equivalent alternatives" be non-conformant,
and further suggest that this result with the most drastic of
consequences: image non-rendering. (Give out more rope, but increase
the risk of hanging oneself). These (and perhaps other) means/tools at
their disposal, would cover the end (human) author or at the "program"
level (WYSIWYG/file upload site/etc.) scenarios.

*@alt and/or @longdesc (if longdesc is put into the draft)
*@alt and/or @legend
*@alt and/or @id
*@alt and/or @figure
*@alt and/or @caption
*@alt and/or (ARIA Variants suggested)
*@alt and/or (suggested reserved values)
*@alt and/or (open to further suggestions)

As Gez Lemon has said before "Lowering conformance requirements so
that authors who cannot be bothered to provide alternative text, or
allowing broken authoring tools to be considered compliant, obviously
goes a long way from solving the fundamental problem here - that of
providing content that is accessible by users with disabilities." [4]
This type solution may help to address conformance requirements and
mandatory alt text.

I think it was Al who mentioned previously that requiring the alt is
an undeniable advertisement that alt exists, and a chance to educate
people about proper usage. I can attest to that.

Best Regards,
[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Aug/0500.html
[2] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Feb/0082.html
[3] http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/IssueAltAttribute#line-44
[4] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008May/0343.html
Received on Thursday, 21 August 2008 12:13:37 UTC

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