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Re: Flickr and alt

From: Sam Kuper <sam.kuper@uclmail.net>
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2008 01:14:02 +0100
Message-ID: <4126b3450808181714n7faf6f42nae03751a3ae253b6@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Boris Zbarsky" <bzbarsky@mit.edu>
Cc: "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>, public-html@w3.org
2008/8/19 Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@mit.edu>

> Sam Kuper wrote:
>
>>      Boris desires the right to publish images without alt
>>      text,
>>
>  Did I say that in any of my mails to David?

My apologies, I didn't keep track of the thread properly, and misascribed
that sentiment to Boris Zbarsky. The point still stands, if you accept my
Boris as a hypothetical Boris (i.e. a different person, with the name Boris,
who *does* desire the right to publish images without alt text).


> 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.

As pragmatic and understandable as that is, I can understand how frustrating
it must seem to someone who is encountering accessibility problems many
times each day.

My own hope is that the specs will form the thin end of a virtuous wedge. By
giving authors something worthwhile to aim for and by giving accessibility
testers something to benchmark against, an environment can be created in
which inaccessibility is publicly demonstrable and decried.

On the other hand, I'm given to idealism.


> [B]anning 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.

It's not a bad analogy, except that the effort and cost required to make the
housing accessible would have been unthinkable. Making web sites accessible
is many orders of magnitude more achievable.

[M]y issue here is the "my needs trump everyone's convenience, absolutely,
> no questions asked" mindset.  Sometimes they should, and sometimes they
> won't.

That's rather fatalistic :) I'm optimistic that, with a not unreasonable
amount of effort, most of our needs can be met - including the provision of
fairly comprehensive web accessibility.


>  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...

The CMSs and templates that I encounter seem, increasingly, to
produce/contain valid (X)HTML and CSS, and their users seem, increasingly,
to complain otherwise.


> I do want some recognition of the fact that it's quite easy to make
> [accessibility conformance] too much pain for a large fraction of authors,
> and that this is something to avoid.
>
I think the level of pain would depend not just upon what is mandated, but
also upon what could be used to make the mandated things less painful. E.g.,
if Flickr not only asked users for alt text, but also explained what alt
text should be like and why it is important, Flickr's users might mind
entering it less than they would if it was simply insisted upon with little
or no explanation. I think users should be able to temporarily override
requirements, too. In the case of Flickr, this might mean that users could
upload images without providing alt text, but that Flickr would put a little
exclamation mark (or suchlike) next to each such image, to remind the user
to enter the missing alt text. Other CMSs, authoring tools, etc, could use
similar techniques.

As for telling whether given alt text is useful or not, I imagine this is
something people might test for with AI eventually. Unfortunately, I doubt
there will be any useful implementations of this in time for HTML5 :)


> [W]hat 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.

I hope your differences aren't quite irreconcilable, but even if they are,
you've both at least given the readers of this thread good pause for thought
on both sides of the issue.

Over and out - it's past my bed time ;)

Regards,

Sam
Received on Tuesday, 19 August 2008 00:20:51 UTC

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