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RE: Mandatory and Important

From: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2008 10:12:26 -0700
To: "'James Graham'" <jg307@cam.ac.uk>, "'Matt Morgan-May'" <mattmay@adobe.com>
Cc: "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>, "'W3C WAI-XTECH'" <wai-xtech@w3.org>, <wai-liaison@w3.org>
Message-ID: <003601c9060c$96060180$0a00000a@stanford.edu>

James Graham wrote:

> 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.

James,

While some voices in this debate may in fact leave that impression, the real
issue, the larger issue, is that the current spec needs to ensure that the
provision for, and the ability to provide, alternative textual information
for all non-textual items be a full requirement for conformance ALWAYS, not
sometimes because of one reason or another.  We cannot force (nor do we
always seek to insist) content authors to do *anything* they do not want to
do (unless they have external mandates to do so, such as job related
requirements - government webmaster for example), but we do want to ensure
that the requirement is sufficient enough from a programmatic perspective
that *every* effort be made to ensure that @alt or an equivalent is always
present.

The technologist on this list suggest that there are times when there is
nothing that can be done, no real or usable information appropriate for @alt
can or will be provided, and great pains to illustrate edge cases to support
this claim have been dug up and discussed ad nauseum.  For this reason, they
argue, providing nothing is perfectly legitimate, if unfortunate: however
this alone, they argue, should not be a reason for "non-conformance".  Of
course none of the claims can be *proven* with any clinical research, which
is one of the other reasons why this keeps going back and forth.


> 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.

...impression...hazard a guess...posit... 

These are all your opinions. Whether they reflect reality or not is not the
point.  We are talking about language design, specifically the next
generation of HTML, which is used to mark up "art" (in the legal sense) so
that it may be conveyed electronically via the internet.  It does not seek
to limit or constrict the creative aspects of that "art", but simply
codifies the means by which it must be manipulated to be rendered via web
browsers.

The "accessibility community" have expressed real and tangible concerns that
the specification appears to have loopholes that specifically permits some
"art" to be less than accessible for no other reason than the author cannot
or chooses not to be conformant.  While we cannot change that individual
artist's opinion or decision, we should not accept that the reason for
non-conformance is author created and somehow forgive this because of
'social' positions or opinions.  You see, while some of the accessibility
voices might seem extremist to you, arguing that most content creators can't
be bothered is an extreme counter-argument of the very same social thread,
and is *not* based on technology or science.

What most of us are suggesting then is that any non-textual content without
some form of directly linked textual equivalent is incomplete, and thus
should be considered non-conformant.  What non-conformance ultimately means
to web browsers is not being discussed here, and apparently today the net
result is/would be non-critical (I was criticized for suggesting that
browsers should do otherwise as being unrealistic), so in the end we have a
situation where the only real "loser" is the claim of conformance.

So we have two potential losers in this standoff - non-sighted users who are
essentially told that because of the *need* for document conformance some
content will discriminate against them, or technologist who seek to have
"conforming" documents always, even when logically they know and understand
that some of the content on any given document might be incomplete, for no
other reason than the content artist could not or chose not to go the extra
distance. How intelligent and presumably caring individuals cannot see this
issue in these terms is one that continues to frustrate the accessibility
community.

> 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.

Right.  So the question then becomes are we discussing the "art", or the
medium?  Laws mandating which art must meet accessibility requirements are
related to this discussion, but also external to this discussion.  At this
point, all we are seeking is to ensure that the next generation markup
language does not leave open a hole that suggests that sometimes some
content can be "conformant" even when it is incomplete, as this leaves open
a door for slimy lawyers to wiggle through.  

The issue boils down to this: should incomplete still be sufficient to be
conformant?  We argue no.

JF
Received on Sunday, 24 August 2008 17:13:17 GMT

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