WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Investigating the proposed alt attributerecommendations in HTML 5


From: Stephanie Sullivan
Date: Aug 30, 2007 9:00AM

On Aug 30, 2007, at 10:30 AM, Andrew Kirkpatrick wrote:

> I think that your page highlights why
> it is necessary to use the alt attribute on images, but it doesn't
> address what the downside of not requiring the alt attribute for all
> images.

Can you expound on that Andrew?

> I feel like this change is being received as a stab in the back to all
> the good work in accessibility that has taken place over the years,
> but
> I don't think that is the case....

To me, it puts it in the realm of that "relying on the user to
understand and make the right choice" problem which exists in much of
the accessibility world. Those of us that do lots of web support and
send people to the validator to sort out problems, before we spend
time dissecting what odd coding issue they've created, know the value
of having the alt required. Many of these newer developers (or maybe
they're not new, they've just never run a page through the validator
and don't keep up with our business) haven't a clue that they should
use an alt attribute. Yes, here at WebAIM, it seems ludicrous. But I
see it every day. Every. Day.

To me, the benefits of having it required far outweigh the possible
downside in a few unique situations. You're now leaving it up to
developers to read the specs and know what things might be a good
idea. They don't do it. Thus, we lose an accessibility hook that in
nearly all cases is the best option. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what
cases exist where the alt becomes a negative attribute?

Stephanie Sullivan
Dreamweaver Task Force for WaSP