WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: alt text subtleties


From: Carol Foster
Date: Jul 17, 2001 7:41AM

Thanks, Paul, for your interesting and helpful reply. This makes me lean toward
using alt=" " for spacers, etc. that are big enough to be seen by sighted users
who don't download images.
I'm still interested in comments on the question of [].
And the archives look great --thanks to everyone who contributed!
Paul Bohman wrote:
> First of all, I just wanted to mention that the archives are once again
> functional.
> Now to answer your question (my comments are inline):
> > 1. We are starting to use brackets [] around alt text, as is done on
> > the Bobby site and some others. This helps a lot in lynx, which runs
> > alt text and regular text together in a way that can be very confusing.
> > It could be really annoying in screen readers though. In JAWS the
> > punctuation can be turned off. Does anyone know if this is a common way
> > to use JAWS (with punctuation turned off), or if this can be done in
> > other screen readers? How do others handle this apparent conflict
> > between lynx and screen readers?
> > 2. "spacer" versus alt="" versus alt=" ":
> Well, you were right that WebAIM recommends using alt="" (alt equals quote
> quote). Some people recommend using alt=" " (alt equals quote space quote),
> but this causes a "tooltip" to popup in Internet Explorer and some other
> browsers, but of course the tooltip has nothing inside of it. It is just a
> little yellow box. It looks a little strange. As far as using alt="spacer",
> I would definitely discourage this practice. If you go with that approach,
> then pretty soon the screen reader user will be hearing things like "spacer,
> spacer, left glowing edge, top glowing edge, blue shadow, vertical line top
> section . . ." and so on. No one wants to hear that. As far as making visual
> users think that they're missing out on something, I guess I'm just less
> concerned about that personally. The truth is that they're not missing out
> on anything. When you designate an image as having an empty alt tag you've
> essentially told everyone that that image isn't important. If the image is a
> small one by one pixel clear gif, then it won't matter either way. If the
> image is larger, then I suppose that a visual person who has the images
> turned off might wonder what the image was, but if all of the rest of your
> alt tags are good enough, maybe the user will assume that the image with the
> empty alt tag is not important.
> (It's dangerous to assume anything, I realize, and it's dangerous to expect
> your users to assume anything, but here is somewhat of a justification:
> Usually, visual users have the images turned off by choice. If necessary,
> they can turn them on again. Blind users have no choice. They have to take
> what the web developer gives them, which is why alt tags are so important in
> the first place.)
> Paul Bohman
> Technology Coordinator
> WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind (www.webaim.org)
> Center for Persons with Disabilities (www.cpd.usu.edu)
> Utah State University (www.usu.edu)
Carol Foster, Web Developer
University Information Systems
University of Massachusetts, President's Office
(413) 587-2130