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Re: Mandatory and Important

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2008 16:49:00 +0100
Message-ID: <48B0316C.1030406@cam.ac.uk>
To: Matt Morgan-May <mattmay@adobe.com>
CC: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org

Matt Morgan-May wrote:
> Of all the questions listed below, only the Joyce example is an actual
> violation of WCAG, and that's at AAA. 

As far as I can that's not actually true; a band uploading a music video 
to YouTube without providing a text alternative violates various 
subsections of WCAG section 1.2, some of which are at level A. The 
synesthesia example violates 1.1 or 1.2 depending on what form the 
content has, although that was far from being the point of the example. 
The other examples do not violate WCAG inasmuch as they were 
deliberately chosen to be non-web examples.

> The rest of the examples are not
> directly applicable, since making something like, say, a bookstore directly
> accessible would be physically impossible. Even ignoring the economics, the
> sheer volume difference between print and Braille is massive. (The last
> Harry Potter book, in Braille, is 1100 pages in 10 volumes, and takes up 15
> inches of shelf space.)
>
> The thing is, we're not in physical space, and so we're not subject to those
> constraints. If Scholastic wanted to distribute Harry Potter in HTML (or
> PDF!), they could, and it'd work just fine in Braille or text-to-speech.
> That's what's so liberating for people with disabilities on the web: they
> don't need you to build a $5k ramp or a $40k elevator or an $80k Braille
> printing run to make your stuff accessible to them. The accommodations that
> are necessary are much more economically reasonable. They're still non-zero,
> but that's life.
>   
It's interesting that you seem to think the main impediments to 
accessibility of real-world artifacts are physical and economic in 
nature. Taking the case of the bookstore; it would, as you say, be 
trivial to distribute an accessible electronic copy of each text 
alongside the printed copy. Alternatively a DVD containing the audio 
recording of a book could be provided; this would often take up 
considerably less shelf space than the book itself. Reproducing 
everything in braille may be impractical but other options exist. 
Despite this, you seem happy that this be left up to the whim of the 
distributor and, by proxy, the individual publisher. This seems rather 
different from the online case where the prevailing view, at least from 
the accessibility community, seems to be that not providing alternate 
media versions of all creative works is a reprehensible failing of the 
original author.

> As for equivalency, I will say this. Every single time a message is
> interpreted from sensory data to text, information is lost. A Pitchfork
> review is a horrible introduction to the White Stripes. The Wine Advocate
> tastes like paper. Every text equivalent is a degradation. Even the act of
> perceiving sensory data is a degradation. We know. We've talked about this
> in WCAG ad nauseam. If I had a nickel for every time the Mona Lisa was
> discussed in a WCAG meeting, I could afford to buy it myself.
>   
Understood.
> This is not a problem we expect the HTML WG, or anyone, to solve.  All that
> is necessary is for someone who knows the message they're trying to
> communicate, to do so textually, as completely as is reasonable. WCAG
> defines what is necessary and sufficient for web content accessibility. I
> think we're only asking for HTML to help us out with the "necessary" part.
>   
My impression is that as a society we do not generally expect people to 
shoulder this burden for all the works that they create. I would hazard 
a guess that the underlying reason for this is not due to limitations of 
physical space as you suggest, since these can be overcome. I posit that 
the scarce resource that society needs to conserve is human effort; as I 
said before a requirement to make all creative works universally 
accessible would present a serious barrier to the creation of new works. 
Society seems to have decided that having more creative works available, 
even if some of them are not accessible to everyone, is an acceptable 
trade off. This is rather different to to position that society has 
adopted on similar questions with regard to services (including stores, 
holiday camps, etc. but excluding things like radio stations), which 
generally are required by law to be accessible.

I
Received on Saturday, 23 August 2008 15:49:39 UTC

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