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Re: ALT Text - CMS Problem


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Apr 15, 2011 3:06PM

David Ashleydale wrote:

> The question is which of these situations is worse:
> 1. An image of a red ball on a page is given alt="b47_257.jpg"
> 2. An image that shows where to find the routing number on a check
> is given alt=""

We know that (1) is wrong. While (2) might be wrong too, it is difficult to
say which one would be more wrong. If it is relevant to users to know where
to find the routing number on a check, then this should most probably be
explained in normal text and accompanied with an illustrative image. As
there is often nothing to be added to the text to help people who do not see
the image, alt="" would be correct.

> No matter what kind of accessibility training we give, there
> will always be page authors that ignore it or just don't get it.

Quality assurance is needed for sure.

> 2. If we change the CMS to make ALT text optional, there will be
> some important, meaningful images that will not be given ALT text.

And if you keep it obligatory, there will be some important, meaningful
images that will have _wrong_ ALT text. So in any case, quality assurance
(or control or whatever you call it) is needed in both cases. The difference
is that when nonempty ALT text is required, all authors, including the most
knowledgeable, will be forced to generate wrong ALT texts. Admittedly, alt="
" (if that is allowed) is not horribly wrong, but it's still wrong, and
authors may write something worse when forced to provide nonempty ALT text.

> If we do decide to stick with the current situation, I'd like to at
> least give the users some tips on writing ALT text for decorative
> images (not that they will all read it, though). I don't think our
> CMS accepts a space as the ALT text.

You should check that out, and if it doesn't accept it, check whether
no-break space can be used, and if yes, find out the most convenient way to
enter it.

> And just using a hyphen seems a
> little weird. Maybe asking them to just use one word? Like "beach"
> for a decorative photo of a couple on a beach?

A hyphen is less weird than an isolated word with no content. A hyphen
generally indicates omission. You might use an en dash too, for the same

Failing everything else, alt="decoration" is better than throwing in some
words that might make sense to a person who sees the image but is a mystery
to one who doesn't. It would also be pointless use of mental resources, and
it would reinforce a wrong tendency and a wrong idea of what alt texts are

Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/