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The goal: To describe a page visually or to convey its information seamlessly?

From: Liam Quinn <liam@htmlhelp.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 13:54:36 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: WAI Guidelines List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 02:53 PM 10/04/98 +0200, Daniel Dardailler wrote:
>I would say: there is the company logo on the left corner (do you want
>me to describe it?), then it says "Welcome to XYZ", etc.

Underlying the endless debate on ALT text and many other issues is the
question of whether we want to describe a Web page visually or to convey
its information seamlessly.

My view is that a well-authored Web page is device-independent, neither
visual nor non-visual since its presentation is determined by the user
agent based on suggestions from the author and user.  The result of this
view is that I want to convey a document's information seamlessly so that
the graphical user, the Lynx user, and the pwWebSpeak user all think that
the page was made for them, written specifically for their browsing
environment.  This is true accessibility.

If you were writing a Web page specifically for aural rendering, you
wouldn't include an image.  On a truly accessible Web, the aural user
should feel that each page is tailored for her browsing environment.  When
we try to tell the aural user that "There's an image here", we're saying
that "This Web page is visual--it isn't made for you or your browsing
environment."  While this may be the case in some situations (e.g., photo
albums), most Web pages convey information that need not be tied to a
visual rendering.

So let's decide:  Do we want to treat the Web as a visual medium and tell
non-visual users how pages look?  Or do we want to treat the Web as a
device-independent medium and communicate its information seamlessly to

Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/
Received on Friday, 10 April 1998 13:54:48 UTC

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