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Re: The alt="" attribute

From: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 11:19:29 -0500
To: Karl Groves <karl.groves@ssbbartgroup.com>
Cc: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <1219767569.4554.472.camel@pav.lan>

On Tue, 2008-08-26 at 08:22 -0700, Karl Groves wrote:
> ----- "Ian Hickson" <ian@hixie.ch> wrote:
> > 
> > If people do want to do actual research here, I would love to see more
> > 
> > usability study videos of blind users using the Web without guidance,
> > to 
> > see how they actually interact with images. I think that that is the
> > level 
> > of research we need to really make more informed decisions.
> I believe this statement to be born from a misunderstanding of usability.  Being able to show you 
> videos of usability study participants is no more useful than the conjecture-and-anecdote based "research"
> you've referenced so far. The current state of usability work, as it relates to accessibility, is limited
> to a relatively small number of studies which were only qualitative in nature and seriously limited in scope. 
> Gathering good, strong, quantitative data - which is the only kind that I'd regard as "actual research" - 
> is going to be prohibitively time consuming, expensive, and unlikely to yield results that aren't already 
> painfully obvious to those employed professionally in the usbaility and accessibility realm.  Numerous works 
> have noted that an expert review performed by a skilled reviewer is just as likely (if not moreso) to find 
> the bulk of usability problems in a system as an actual lab study [1]. "At present, the available research 
> leaves us in doubt about the advantages and disadvantages of usability testing relative to other UEMs" [2].
> This leads me to address your mention last week of "appeals to authority". While I can agree with your argument that 
> statements shouldn't be accepted outright based simply on the identity of the person making the statement, it 
> is also worth mentioning that these statements are born from sometimes decades of professional experience in the 
> field of accessibility. I can't speak for others, but I can tell you that my 8-10 hour a day, 5-day-a-week interaction 
> with disabled people largely negates the need for "research" into most accessibility issues - i.e. "alt text".

I was hoping that these paragraphs were a pre-amble to an argument in
favor or against one of the design proposals regarding "alt", but
I don't see one.

I'm certainly interested in any argument you'd like to add to the
discussion, based on your experience.

I think any clear argument based on specific experience with actual
usage is the sort of thing that contributes to open
technical discussion.

It's something of a limitation that the rest of us can't
independently verify claims made by people such as yourself,
but likewise, the rest of us can't independently verify the
data Ian gets from the google web crawler.

Dan Connolly, W3C http://www.w3.org/People/Connolly/
gpg D3C2 887B 0F92 6005 C541  0875 0F91 96DE 6E52 C29E
Received on Tuesday, 26 August 2008 16:19:18 UTC

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