More on Image alt Requirement in HTML5

HTML5 logo — I am the 'alt,' not the 'title' Nearly two weeks ago I wrote up a post outlining the W3C decision to no longer require the alt attribute on images in HTML5: Image alt Attributes Not Always Required in HTML5. I was genuinely surprised to see that was the most popular post on this blog and garnered the most re-tweets on Twitter I’ve ever had.

I pulled the alt decision off the W3C mailing list, before it was officially announced in any forum, so I suspected it might languish in obscurity for a while. I wasn’t quite right. First, to recap the decision:

  • The presence of aria-labelledby does not make missing alt conforming.
  • The presence of role=presentation does not make missing alt conforming.
  • The presence of <meta name=generator> makes missing alt conforming.
  • Use of private communications does not, in itself, make missing alt conforming.
  • The presence of title makes missing alt conforming.
  • The presence of figcaption makes missing alt conforming.

Just over a week later, Steve Faulkner, member of W3C HTML Working Group along with other W3C working groups, provided a more in-depth and detailed overview, including a re-hash of the full decision in his post HTML5 Accessibility Chops: the alt decision.

On Friday, the HTML Accessibility Task Force mailing list took up the discussion of the alt attribute, starting in the email with the subject “[text] updated draft of clarification on alt validation.” This message outlines the response to the alt decision, specifically targeting those issues with which the Accessibility Task Force has taken issue.

To distill the response on why the exception for the presence of <meta name=generator> should be re-examined (these are just the key points, descriptions of each are in the email):

A distilled high-level list of why the presence of a title attribute obviates the need for an alt:

Finally, on the decision that <figure> with an associated <figcaption> allows the exclusion of alt (also distilled):

Further discussion on this draft is scheduled for a meeting among the W3C HTML Accessibility Task Force today (May 2). In the meantime, feedback has been rolling in from other members on the list, some of them challenging the assertions made in the draft response. You can continue to follow the discussion by reading the thread in the April 2011 mail archive. Since May has just started and this thread crosses into May, you can catch up on the most recent discussion in the May 2011 mail archives.

Sadly, as evidenced by my posting silence for most of April, I won’t be able to follow the results of a meeting today and will probably have to wait for the news like everyone else. If this topic interests you , then you may want to follow along on the W3C mailing list archives.

Update: June 11, 2012

I wrote yet more: Image alt Exception Change Re-Re-Requested

Update: November 24, 2013

I wrote even more: Image alt Exception Change Re-Re-Re-Requested

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