[thelist] alt tags on all images (was Site Check)

noah noah at tookish.net
Wed Nov 7 12:06:57 CST 2001

Sorry, this is something that has been bugging me for a while, so I feel 
obliged to weigh in . . .

Regarding having to include alt text on all images,

At 11:53 AM 07/11/2001, jay.blanchard at thermon.com wrote:
>1. Makes your site more accessible (advantage)
>2. Validates properly (advantage)
>3. Personal pride in knowing you did the best you could do (advantage)
>4. Readability in graphics impaired browsers and WAP devices (advantage)


If you build a header out of several different images, someone using a 
text-to-speech or text-only browser has to either listen to a long list of 
alt text or look at a jumble of relatively insignificant text at the top of 
the page - I would much prefer to just add alt text to one image, and have 
non-graphical browsers simply ignore the others.

(I know that ideally, using CSS, you shouldn't have to use multiple images, 
but in reality I still find myself needing to, and I'm not 100% sure that 
this need will go away even when CSS2 is well implemented - some designs 
simply require multiple images, especially for the sake of image 
compression - some parts might be better as jpgs, others as gifs)

alt="" is a nasty hack, and by using it, a designer is saying "this image 
doesn't need alt text" - isn't it a fallacy to say that this is okay, and 
yet it's not okay to leave the alt off altogether? The result is exactly 
the same.

It seems to me that the WC3 made the alt text mandatory to force designers 
to make pages that are more accessible and more readable in non-graphical 
browsers. The assumption, though, appears to be that designers won't pay 
attention to accessibility unless they are forced to - rather than being 
told that I have to include alt text, I would much rather be free to make 
my pages as accessible as possible for users of non-graphical browsers by 
using alt text when I want it to appear, and leaving it off of images that 
I think are of absolutely no use to text-to-speech and text only browsers. 
In many cases, I believe that being forced to use alt text diminishes a 
site's accessibility.

alt text belongs on most images; the notion that including it is *always* 
better for accessibility is simply not true, however - we should be able to 
choose which "images" do and do not appear to users of non-graphical browsers.



Noah St.Amand
416-452-7840 | 613-549-5394
noah at tookish.net

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