WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Investigating theproposedaltattributerecommendationsinHTML 5


From: John Foliot - Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Date: Aug 31, 2007 11:10AM

Andrew Kirkpatrick wrote:
> My point is that I don't think that it is causing harm.

Yet. My concern is that currently there is no real "need" to make this
change, but with it comes the possibility that there may, in the future, be
abuse of the "permission" to not include alt text. If it ain't broke, why
fix it? And if it is broken, then is this really the way to fix it? I've
not seen any proof that it is, and the justification to me is weak.

> Please find a place where I have ever said that alt on an image that
> is linked or that represents real content shouldn't have an alt
> attribute and a good value.

Andrew, that is not what I am saying, and I've never suggested that - ever.
Please do not twist my words.

What I am saying is that currently some developers are using alt=""; not
optimum, and frankly disappointing. However, there is no demonstrable harm
from this, outside of the fact that there is an image lacking alternative
text. Some developers simply will continue to develop like this, and no
rules or specs will change that.

However, to my mind there is a world of difference between a spec that
insists that there is some alternative text, and thus tools will try and
encourage authors to supply such, versus a new spec that says specifically
that there are times when no alternative text is permitted. "Policing"
these instances will be impossible, but sloppy / lazy / ignorant
(uninformed) developers will now have the option, perfectly legal by the
spec, of not providing alternative text. This to me is a backward slide,
and one that need not exist. If Flickr and Picasa and that whole class of
photo-sharing sites actually worked at making it easier for content
contributors to add appropriate alt text then we would not need to be
considering this.

We need more education, and not specs that excuse (and permit) poor practice
and ignorance.

> No more than currently just put alt="" though.

No argument, however "blessing" this is a whole other situation. Again, to
me it is the cracking of the lid of Pandora's Box.