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Re: Text equivalents

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 15:59:42 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Nir Dagan <nir@nirdagan.com>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

	Thanks to a nasty cold and/or spring allergy I am home today and able to
reply to the list in a timely fashion. 

At 08:24 PM 3/14/2000 -0500, Nir Dagan wrote:
>As I see it the principles of the guidelines are these:
>1. Make your site with universal design:
>     1.1 separate content/structure from presentation to allow the client
>         to choose the optimal presentation.
>     1.2 If the above cannot be accomplished provide alternatives
>2. Use *existing* technologies/specifications, 
>   and study technologies that are in preparation and will be available soon.

Correct my mistake, but there seems to be a presumption that text is a
universal content. For some users and some sites, text is not the content
at all - the content is the graphics and/or multi-media itself. A more
universal definition, the "information" should be the content, and it
should be presented so that none are turned away from it. Audio and
graphics exist as text alternatives, so requiring audio and graphics to be
"universal" but not text is clearly discriminatory.  

>The second thing is important because we want content providers to 
>actually *implement* the guidelines on their sites. Thus, the cost of 
>implementation must be reasonable. A good example of an existing cheap 
>technology is HTML, with T standing for text. The guidelines teach content
providers to use text more efficiently, that is, with the same cost make a
more accessible site.

I'm not sure how early I came on board with HTML, but my first introduction
to it at UVA more than a decade ago, was with graphics already available.
My picture was on the web a full two years before I ever was able to see it
other than when I was in C'ville, DOS and Unix reigned equally back then,
and MACs were outstanding because they could show the images on the web. It
wasn't the T part of HTML that attracted us educators, it was the ability
to present information from wherever to wherever since most of us are rural
educators without access to libraries and museums. Without images, the web
was no improvement over gopher, the archie-toons, and ftp. 

>With your proposals:
>1. Creating audio/video/graphic equivalents to text we have:
>   1.1 Design cost are of a similar magnitude of serving a site in
multiple languages.
>     In theory this can be done with a language transforming style sheet,
>     our understanding of languages is still not good enough to develop a
style sheet to 
>     do that. Also converting text to a sequence of illustrations still
requires an artist, and cannot be done even with DSSSL style sheet.

Converting information to text still requires a writer. Why should an
"artist" be such an obstacle? Some disabled folks are "artists" and would
welcome the work! If style sheets can't cut the mustard, why advocate them
as a "universal" solution?

>   1.2 The actual serving of multimedia in reasonable response time in
extremely costly.
>        What I can serve in a 25 dollars a month virtually hosted account
of text 
>        and "normal" quantity of graphics will require a 500 dollar a
month dedicated 
>        server to serve in audio/video/heavy graphics.

Your numbers seem way off. A lot of the popular joke sites and other sites
in which the content is heavy-graphics are on free servers when they are
done by "mom-and-pop" users. Sites which provide virtual "greeting cards"
where the content is graphical/animations with limited text, provide them
free to users. I would assume that if it were costly to maintain such
sites, they would have to charge users instead of existing off of
advertising. The ISP I use for my personal web site has never applied any
size restrictions to what I use - they advertised a 1 mg site free with
e-mail, and my site, with lots of graphics and from time to time one or
more *.wav files, has averaged 5 mg most of the years I've used it, and not
a peep out of the provider! If the little guys can do it, why not the big

The timeliness of the delivery is less of a concern than that the content
is delivered at all. Even if I go do some chores while waiting for a
download, it's still faster than driving to the nearest city or waiting on
snail mail. Remember, the issue is accommodating the needs of the disabled.
The folks who need these supports would rather wait, than not have it at

>My last remark is that not only people with learning disabilities need 
>audio rather than text, but also many visually impaired do, but the 
>transformation is done by the client, not by the content provider.

The content provider is in the best position to provide content, whether it
is audio, visual or anything else (I have heard there's a technology under
development to send smells thru the web ...!) Further, audio provided by
the content provider is of much better quality than is as yet available to
the client! Computers in sci-fi movies sound wonderful, but in real-life
computers have awful voices that are just another curb without a cut! 

>Many things will be cheaper in the future, e.g. vector graphics are more
>and can do some animation that now require a short video clip. But the WAI
is aware 
>of these developments and is working to include all practically
implementable technologies. 
>When automatic translation of a site to a simpler language or to a
sequence of images will 
>be cost effective, WAI will probably adopt it.

If I felt strongly that would happen, I wouldn't put the time into
participating in this group. I guess I want to make sure it happens, and
happens yesterday <grin>!


Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Wednesday, 15 March 2000 15:57:56 UTC

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