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Re: Flickr and alt

From: David Poehlman <david.poehlman@handsontechnologeyes.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 19:41:50 -0400
Message-ID: <7BF2EB3267C5441EA9864F5FE103E72D@HANDS>
To: "Boris Zbarsky" <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>, "Sam Kuper" <sam.kuper@uclmail.net>
Cc: "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>, <public-html@w3.org>

I think my answer is fairly clear, but I'll state it in concreet terms. 
There seems to be an attitude and not here that accessibility is somehow up 
to someone else other than those who can make it happen.  It's either up to 
the screen reader developpers, <wrong>, the users, <wrong> and you see where 
this is headed.  Interestingly, the alt attribute as with many accessibility 
enhancing drugs speaks to a much wider audience than the AT user unless you 
consider a thin pipe a disability.  If you turn off images, read with 
braille, print your pages on a black and white printer so you can put them 
under a black and white cctv to read them, if you use a monochrome screen 
and your computer just doesn't have the stomach for bloat along with the 
pipe that brings it in and you have no choice but to use this setup and it 
is the only thing feeding your family,  you don't agree that the pain for 
the many outweighs the needs of the few .

My cell phone surfs the web, my pda surfs the web, my electronic reader can 
take in content from the web.  I can use my phone to read the web with my 
braille display which provides me with 24 characters at a time with no word 
wrap.  Think I'm being hard?  I'm not asking that all web pages be t4 chars 
wide right?

Yes, reason when employed achieves a balance.  I am glad we agree that 
accessibility is a reasonable approach.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Boris Zbarsky" <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>
To: "Sam Kuper" <sam.kuper@uclmail.net>
Cc: "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>; <public-html@w3.org>
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 7:06 PM
Subject: Re: Flickr and alt



Sam Kuper wrote:
>    1. I don't believe David threatened violence.

I didn't say he did.

> The enforcement of most
>       laws in countries where accessibility is a legal requirement, does
>       not require the use of violence, if I am not mistaken.

Sam, all law-enforcement is based on the fact that the state has more
force than you do, and in particular in the fact that it can bring more
violence to bear than you do.  Naturally it rarely actually _uses_
violence, when things are working.  But consider what happens when one
defies a court order, say.  It's not all peace and love and coaxing.

I wasn't upping the ante, merely pointing out that threatening legal
outcomes means forcing people just as much as if you were dispensing
with the legal-system middleman and directly doing it at gunpoint.  This
is not to be read as saying there aren't situations where such forcing
needs to happen: clearly there are.

>    2. Having the (HTML5, in this case) spec require alt text for images
>       would not, if I am not mistaken, automatically make the publishing
>       of images without alt text against the law.

Indeed.  David was advocating that it should, as far as I can tell from
his rather disjointed replies to my mails.  In particular, the claim
that being able to get alt text is a right (presumably protected by law,
if it's going to be called that) certainly implies it.  My objection was
to this attitude and its general implications for this specification,
not to the idea of requiring alt text specifically.

>       Boris desires the right to publish images without alt
>       text,

Did I say that in any of my mails to David?  Can you please point out where?

All I desire is an acknowledgement that fundamentally the right to
accessibility cannot be an absolute right.  Just like any other right
cannot be absolute.  That would be a much healthier basis for
discussion, in my opinion, and quite independently of my views on any
particular aspect of accessibility.

 > Whose is the greater right? That is what is under discussion.

Neither, when the question is phrased that way.  When two rights
conflict the resolution of the conflict always depends on the exact
circumstances. If there were a blanket resolution there would be no
conflict to discuss.

 > I am inclined to David's side, for while
>       it is merely an inconvenience for Boris to provide alt text, it is
>       in many cases an /impossibility/ for David to know the content of
>       an image without it.

Assuming this were all true (and I'm not convinced it is), that doesn't
necessarily mean much, to be honest.  For example, banning multi-level
dwellings before the invention of elevators would be merely an
inconvenience for those who can navigate stairs, or hire someone to
carry them up and down stairs, while allowing them makes it impossible
for some people to get to some rooms.

At the same time, banning multi-level dwellings would have priced many
families more or less out of having a roof over their heads in many
urban areas at the end of the nineteenth century.

I'm not claiming this is in any way similar to the alt situation, by the
way.  It's merely an example to illustrate that when weighing a "mere
inconvenience" for the many against the needs of the few one has to keep
in mind that there are many groups of "the few".  And once you add up a
lot of "mere inconveniences" life can get pretty intolerable.

Again, none of this has anything to do with the alt attribute per se; my
issue here is the "my needs trump everyone's convenience, absolutely, no
questions asked" mindset.  Sometimes they should, and sometimes they won't.

> As the level of education in web technologies improves, and the tools
> for creating (X)HTML improve, the level of conformance is, I believe,
> gradually increasing.

I'm not seeing that as a web browser developer, but we might be looking
at very different data sets...

> Being conformant is not too much pain (at least, not for everyone)

I didn't imply that it currently is.  Nor that requiring alt attributes
would make it so.  I do want some recognition of the fact that it's
quite easy to make it too much pain for a large fraction of authors, and
that this is something to avoid.  I couldn't quite tell whether David
agreed with this, since he never bothered to respond to my questions.

> Please note: if any of the above seems combative, it isn't intended to
> be.

It doesn't seem combative to me.  In like vein, what I say is not meant
to be combative, and I hope it didn't come across that way.  I just feel
like David and I have a fundamentally different view of the way society
does and should function.  For what it's worth, I'm not getting that
impression with you, Sam.  ;)

-Boris
Received on Monday, 18 August 2008 23:42:33 GMT

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