[html4all] Blue-sky thinking (ALT attribute)

John Foliot foliot at wats.ca
Tue Sep 25 13:16:52 PDT 2007

Moved to the public list:

> Debi Orton wrote:
>> Hi John,
>> I'm not sure I follow what you're proposing.  I'm not seeing why a
>> developer -- who's already objecting to adding alt attributes at all
>> -- would be more willing to supply alt="_none" in lieu of alt="".  I
>> understand the part about how AT would handle that particular
>> artifact, but I don't understand what it would do to improve the
>> provision of alt values for visual items.
>> Can you explain this aspect more fully?
> Currently the editors are stating that alt="" is for images that have
> no need of an alternative text - spacer.gif kind of things or other
> embellishments (that should reside in CSS, but whatever).  What they
> are looking at is images that *should* have alternative text, but
> doesn't - the kind of photos that would be uploaded via their cell
> phones (their scenario).  They are suggesting in those contexts that
> not having an alt attribute should be allowed, rather than
> "polluting" the web with useless or redundant alternative text.  They
> can't seem to budge from the idea of an instance when there would be
> no useful alt text provided, thus not adding an alt attribute should
> be permitted.          
> My concern is that allowing an image to exist without an alt
> attribute opens the door to abuse (as we saw with Anne's blog example
> of the building in Boston), and so I'm suggesting that to be "in
> conformance" an image *must* contain an alt value, and along with the
> already reserved alt="" that another reserved value would be
> alt="_none" - for instances when there should be alternative text,
> but none has been provided.  While this does not really address the
> accessibility of the image itself (it still has no usable alternative
> text), it *does* preserve the requirement of all images must contain
> the alt attribute.  This eliminates the "backward slide" that I am
> most concerned about.          
> The other thing is that it's not so much a value that a content
> author would use in a traditional HTML editor (although it
> could/would port over to that  
> environment) but more in instances like Flickr, where the interface
> either does not allow (this should be fixed), or more likely because
> of the volume of imagery being added (coupled with user apathy or
> ignorance) results in no alternative text being supplied - in that
> case default to _none ('cause that is what has been supplied - none
> or nothing).  It's accurate, truthful, concise, and because it would
> be standardized in the spec it would be something that user agents
> could reliably be programmed to deal with.       
> Does that make sense?

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