WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Title Attribute (was Re: IMG with a caption?)


From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Mar 12, 2005 10:43AM

maryg wrote:
> Thank you for making this point, which is something I've been trying
> to convey to a client who is using exclusively because
> they claim that
> Netscape does not read alt text. Could it be that Netscape _does_
> read alt text, but the screen reader they're using for testing is set
> to only read
> ?

A) there are two "titles",
* the title element ()
* and the title attribute (<img, src="file.gif" alt="alt text here"
title="title information here" />)

B) Netscape (?) does not "read" anything... It renders HTML content into a
GUI environment.

Now the question is: does the Netscape browser (and you need to specify
which version) render a tool tip using only the ALT attribute? In current
builds (based upon the Gecko rendering agent), no. However, the title
attribute will *currently* produce this result in the Gecko based browsers
(Netscape 7, Firefox, Safari, etc.). This may change, at any time, in any
build. (and/or maybe just for one OS... Netscape/Gecko is available for
Windows, Mac, Linux...)

C) Screen readers come in many flavors, and can be configured to suit the
end users preferences. Some screen readers interact with other applications
(JAWS, WindowEyes), others are stand-alone applications which read HTML
documents (IBM HomePageReader). "Expecting" a specific behaviour from any
of these tools is a pipe-dream - see comments above regarding *one* browser.

> However, since we encourage testing with several browsers, we
> need to be
> aware of how different browsers act. So I'm wondering about
> whether Netscape
> reads alt text.

Why? If a browser is set to not display images (voluntarily or by default),
then the W3C says that the ALT text should be rendered. Walk away from
"Tool Tips" as a method of providing any supplementary information that is
critical... That behavior is not *Mandated* anywhere, it is at the sole
discretion of the browser/user agent developer. (And thankfully, this will
never change)

Yes, Netscape will provide the ALT text if you have configured it to not
display images; no, it will not produce a "Tool Tip" via the ALT attribute.
So what? Who cares, and more importantly, why do they care?

I will repeat it again... Tool Tips as a means of conveying critical
information is a misuse of the Title Attribute, and a dangerous methodology

What about the ABC browser? The FooBar Browser? And so on and so on. What
of non-visual users? (when was the last time you saw a blind user with a
computer mouse?) What of text only users? (Lynx does not produce "Tool
Tips" ever).

Yes, you want to test in multiple browsers to ensure that the visual
rendering is approximately the same, but please always remember that it is
humanly impossible to set up a testing lab with every conceivable user agent
configuration possible (well, unless you have Bill Gate's money, and even
then, there is a practical limitation to how many machines you can feed and
manage...). Use your HTML the way the W3C tells you to, and leave the
"interpretation" to the end users.

JF --
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca 1.866.932.4878 (North America)