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Re: HTML Action Item 54 - ...draft text for HTML 5 spec to require producers/authors to include @alt on img elements.

From: Andrew Sidwell <w3c@andrewsidwell.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 13:53:06 +0100
Message-ID: <48298F32.4050508@andrewsidwell.co.uk>
To: Steven Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>
CC: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org

I have reservations about adding to this thread, but so it goes...  (I 
fear I'm making the same point Dave Singer rather excellently made.)

Steven Faulkner wrote:
> dear maciej,
>> It is not a matter of opinion. Making a use-case non-conforming is by
> definition not handling it for purposes of document conformance. It
> may be a >conscious choice to reject a use case, but it is not
> support.
> you assume without justification, that it is desirable or right to
> accommodate use cases that  result in important data and/or data
> relationships not being provided. i don't subscribe to this.

I would be happy if someone (or several someones) in favour of making 
alt mandatory in all cases would answer very simply: How does a blind 
photographer mark up a photo, which is known to be critical content, but 
which she herself cannot describe?

Is it:
<img src="photo">
<img src="photo" alt="Photo">
<img src="photo" alt="Exposure 2s, f/12">
or something else?

Furthermore, should a blind photographer who cannot provide alt text be 
able to author conforming HTML5?  (I ask this without prejudice; maybe 
the answer should be no.)

This is essentially what "handling the use case" would consist of. 
Guidance needs to be given in cases like these-- "cases that result in 
important data and/or data relationships not being provided", whether 
you want to accommodate them within the spec or not.

Why?  Because there *is* content with no textual alternative and there 
will be whether you say there should be or not.  The interesting 
question is not "should alt be mandatory?" but "how do you mark up 
critical content with no known alt text?".  Saying "but alt text should 
be available" does not change the fact that sometimes, it is not.  With 
me?  Just because you set up your goalposts such that the interesting 
question is outside them does not remove the question.

As a photographer, I do not have the time or the money to pay someone 
else to have the time to provide anything resembling alternate text for 
99% of my photos.  I am quite willing to produce non-conforming HTML5 if 
alt was to became mandatory in all cases, but the question remains-- how 
should I mark up the photos I don't have the resources to provide alt 
text for whilst still saying that they are critical content?

(Call me someone with disregard for disabilities if you like, but I see 
putting photos online for those who can view them analogously to showing 
my friends prints of photos in real life.  IRL I don't write alternate 
text for every print I make in case someone who can't adequately view 
the photo wants to know what it's about, and so I don't expect to do the 
same online.  I would be happy to describe a photo in such an instance, 
but it's something I would do on-the-fly, and not at 

Andrew Sidwell
Received on Tuesday, 13 May 2008 12:53:45 UTC

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