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Re: Investigating the proposed altattributerecommendations in HTML 5


From: Andrew Kirkpatrick
Date: Aug 30, 2007 10:20AM

> > 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?

The basic idea that is being advocated in HTML5 is that alt should be
used when it is needed. If alt has a null value, then it isn't really
needed, so could be omitted. There are lots of attributes that function
in this way, and I'm arguing that since there isn't additional value in
requiring alt for images that don't need it, alt can be treated this way
without adverse affects.

Steve's page is mostly highlighting what happens if you don't use the
alt attribute when it is needed, and there are known problems for users.
This isn't really the point, since alt is still allowed on images.

Requiring alt on all images would mean that pages (assuming that they
are valid) containing images would have alt attributes, but nothing to
ensure that the alt attributes have values or useful values.

> 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

Do you think that we're not not now in that realm anyway?

> ludicrous. But I see it every day. Every. Day.

I'm not exactly cloistered away on the WebAIM list all day... :)

I don't have a real objection to alt being required or not. All I want
to point out is that there is nothing inherently wrong about having it
not be. <img src="spacer.gif" alt="" /> is identical to <img
src="spacer.gif" /> semantically. Either way, Dreamweaver will still
prompt for alt when you insert an image, but you are correct that people
who only find out about accessibility is by validating their site will
lose an opportunity to educate themseleves. On the other hand, we won't
have any one doing a find and replace for '<img' and replacing it with
'<img alt=""' to get by the validator. If a page has no alt values,
then it is laid bare that they haven't attended to accessibility (unless
they ONLY use spacer images).

Images are probably less of an issue than form labels. Should we
require the id attribute on inputs and the for attribute on label
elements? Require the caption element inside tables? People developing
for the web need to learn how to code properly or use tools that
encourage it, but I just don't think that making alt not required is a