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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Francois Jordaan <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 26 Aug 2005 15:03:59 +0100
"William Hudson (ACM)" <[log in to unmask]>
Francois Jordaan <[log in to unmask]>
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I agree the image should be a link. The ideal is that only a single <a>
element is used, containing both the image and heading. Just because they're
in separate columns doesn't rule this out, you may be able to get the effect
you want using CSS. (I may be able to help if you can show me the layout you
want to achieve.) This approach solves both the whitespace and alt text
dilemmas, elaborated below.

Often, I know, it's impossible to do use a single <a>, and you have to use
two separate <a> elements. This raises two questions: whitespace and alt

1) As for separating links by more than whitespace, as far as I know this
rule was created to compensate for some older text and speech browsers that
are unable to differentiate between a series of consecutive links if they
are not separated by one or more unlinked characters. I don't know how
widespread these browsers are nowadays, but it's obviously their fault if
they're misrepresenting valid markup. The usual answer was kludges like
inserting punctuation, audible as "vertical bar" or "square bracket", which
IMO is not very helpful either. So at the moment I'd recommend you ignore
this rule.

2) As for alt text, this is a difficult one indeed. Last year I asked the
WAI list whether alt text is necessary on an image next to an identical text
"Is ALT text necessary if there's an identical caption adjacent?"

The consensus was that alt="" is appropriate in such cases. But the thread
did not answer the question what to do if the image is also a link. 

We had a similar problem on one of our websites recently. You have 3

a) Correctly used alt text (a text alternative for the picture)
   PROBLEM: This link may not make sense out of context

b) alt=""
   PROBLEM: Mysterious "empty" links

c) alt="Heading text" (Repeat the heading text in the alt)

This was the compromise we reluctantly decided on. This way the links make
sense out of context. The purpose of the images were mainly decorative, so
we didn't feel as if the blind user was missing out on any important
information. Unfortunately, you end up with annoying repetition when the
page is read out linearly, and also an unrealistic representation of the
number of links on the page.

If you feel in your case that the images convey important information, then
I guess the following option would be appropriate:

d) alt="Heading text (Image: Hand holding a flower)"

I hope that helps!


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