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Re: Alt text (was VIKI - text transcodeing)


From: John Foliot - Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Date: Jan 22, 2007 12:50PM

Alastair Campbell wrote:
> With regards to the square brackets, surely this is something that
> should be left upto the user agent?
> I've added things like "Portrait of " when applicable, and I've added
> full stops at the end to make alts read better, but square brackets?
> I believe (and LĂ©onie will elbow me if I'm wrong) that square
> brackets aren't read by Jaws on default settings, and other UAs may
> add them or something similar already.

Alastair, you are correct - under default setting JAWS (and if I remember
correctly, WindowEyes as well) do not read aloud the square brackets, which
is actually one of the reasons why I use them.

I have not seen any other UA that actually "separates" alt text from
standard text (that is, until I saw Phil's VIKI rendering), and as you have
noted, this can occasionally make ALT text 'read funny', not only for screen
readers, but for other text-only UAs. As I mentioned earlier, my use of the
square bracket then is mostly an experiment (which has started to become
part of my regular development flow), to try and address this observation.
It does not add significantly to any user "load", and in certain
circumstances seems to improve the overall user experience. I have not had
any negative feedback (but I've not had any positive either, so I guess the
jury is still out).

> I guess I just feel rather uncomfortable adding something to the
> content that may be a passing phase (like alt="*" thankfully was). If
> it is a good idea, the UAs may start adding it...

Hmmm... And so how do we try and affect this? Is it a good idea? (I like to
think so, but that's me). If it *is* a good idea, how do we spread the

> Still, I do find screen reader's habit of reading images as part of
> the document flow rather unintuitive (i.e. without pause unless you
> use punctuation).

Right, and to be clear, the square brackets do nothing to change that,
although the dash after the "descriptor" [Photo - foo] does add a slight
pause as I recall. My primary reason for adding square brackets though are
not for screen-readers, but rather text-only UAs.


> Kind regards,
> -Alastair