This is one of those posts that might interest only a few people and even then only if you are interested in a very specific aspect of this ongoing standard development.
Yesterday I got into a conversation (just one of the messages) on the W3C Responsive Image Community Group mailing list about the
alt attribute on the new
picture element (see the W3C Editor's Draft). For those who don't know, this community group has been working on producing a method in HTML to allow web developers to specify multiple sources for an image in the same way that we use media queries to specify a particular set of CSS styles to apply to a page.
The discussion was focused on accessibility for the
picture element. One suggestion was to use an ARIA role on the
picture element to point back to the fallback
img. The other suggestion was to just replicate the fallback
alt text in an
alt attribute on the
In the end, Mathew Marquis, who is the group chair, proposed these two options:
- Duplicating the
altattribute on both the
pictureelement and its fallback
- Only specify
alton the fallback
aria-labelledbyon its parent
pictureto reference the ID of the fallback
Here's the problem—only three people from the community group have responded so far, me being one of them. More responses are needed on issues like this. The broad strokes are in place, but the details are what can kill a specification (or a project, or a patient, or a credit rating). If you are a part of the W3C Responsive Image Community Group (and are reading this and care about these issues) then now would be a good time to pop your head up so others can hear.
In case you are curious, here is my take (which a year from now I may find was an awful idea)…
alt on the fallback
img should be required and explicitly spelled out as such.
To build on that, I feel that it will be easier for authors and toolmakers to just require the
alt on the fallback
img, but not on
picture rely on the fallback
alt as a single place for fallback content (essentially dump
Then there is no need to worry about duplicating
picture and we can lean on existing
alt rules, expectations, and even tool implementations even as this new element gets traction.
The two other respondents have far more practical experience with the specifications and accessibility in general, so you should read what Laura Carlson and Bruce Lawson have to say on this. Steve Faulkner has also weighed in, indirectly, on the HTML Working Group mailing list.
And then you can weigh in with your own thoughts. I'd like to see a responsive image solution, whether this one that is proposed or another. Only pushing for something, either way, will make that happen.
Bear in mind, even if this spec doesn't make it and another solution comes forward (server-side or even image-format-based), these conversations help inform other options. This ultimately helps end users, so it's a good idea to get involved. Bruce Lawson helps put a little context around this whole discussion in a post from yesterday, On the publication of Editor’s draft of the