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Re: Investigating the proposedaltattributerecommendationsin HTML 5


From: John Foliot - Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Date: Aug 30, 2007 8:30PM

Andrew Kirkpatrick wrote:
> To me this is attempting to make a rule for developers to abide by.
> This is effectively saying "when alt is needed and not available
> don't put null alt just to pass the validator".

Instead, "...the alt attribute may be omitted..." - Andrew, how can this be
of any benefit to accessibility concerns?

> This is in fact
> pretty interesting. AT already applies heuristics to guess at the
> appropriate representation for the image, but not _image_ heuristics.
> This would be
> nice, but we're not there yet.

Precisely, thus it is the responsibility of the developer to bridge the gap,
and one simple way is to provide the alternative text. Otherwise,
currently, the heuristic result often ends up being "34598_6352.jpg".
Providing the option of omitting alt text will be used as a "Free Pass" by
some, and they will point to the spec and say that it's allowed. It's the
thin edge of the wedge.

> This could be a nice feature for
> repair tools since they could easily identify images that are already
> determined by the developer as needing an alt.

As does a search for alt=""...

> At the end of the day, it isn't going to make a big difference either
> way. Images need useful alt values in a well-defined set of
> circumstances. Whether the image alt attribute is missing or it is
> alt="" for an image that is important, there is an accessibility
> problem, and one that would need to be verified even if a page passes
> a validator.

Here we are in total agreement. However, entrenching the concept of
"optional" alternative text will be abused and mis-used in as many or more
instances than the very few examples currently being suggested (and BTW, who
uploads 3,000 photos of their vacation?) Again, once the door has been
wedged open, it will be difficult to close Pandora's Box.