W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > January to March 2000

graphics generally complement, not replace, text

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 14:04:20 -0500
Message-Id: <200003171900.OAA11980@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: Web Content Accessiblity Guidelines Mailing List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 09:57 AM 2000-03-17 -0500, Anne Pemberton wrote:
>Greg and all,
>>1. who is to decide what semiotic schema to use in order to provide a 
>>non-reader (as defined above) with a purely graphical slash symbolic 
>>version of the textual contents of a page?
>There seem to be no agreement on a universal symbolic "language" other than
>international road signs. Perhaps this can't be accomplished until we have
>the capicity to interpret languages "on the fly". But it is possible to ask
>authors to illustrate opening screens and links separate from graphics used
>for style and design. 



A "purely graphical slash symbolic version" is not what is usually called for.

Graphical language that complements the text-encoded natural language is a
better statement of the design objective.


This reflects a difference in the differing perceptual realities of the
effects of different "disabilities."  For a person with no vision, a GIF
that gets inlined into the graphic screen has essentially no residual value
(modulo the vOICe) as a resource to transform to sound.  Text on the other
hand, has multiple competing implementations of transformation to sound.
In this case, there is a case for why the text strictly by itself should
cover the bases and tell the essence of the story.  

For people with functional impairments which affect their reading
performance, however, text can be iconography, just so long as one doesn't
rely too heavily on orthodox decoding of the code value of the text.  For
people with reading-related functional impairments, I believe that most of
the time imagery should be regarded as concurrent with, and complementary
to, the text that is exposed.  More reinforcements than equivalents.  Very
few users need to go to a "no words" setting in their personal preferences.  

Topic and flow should be revealed in imagery and not just in verbal
encoding.  But what is readily achievable in this direction does not extend
to an exhaustive exploration of all the detail and nuance in the text, just
as texual equivalents for sight gags in video pale by comparison.  In the
evaluation of the use of imagery, it is not reasonable to assume that the
text is useless; the evaluation should be based on the composite of text
and image where it is understood that each can reinforce the message
delivered by the other.  Greeking the text and guessing the meaning of the
page structures is a relevant evaluation and repair method, but not a
go/no-go criterion comparable to replacing all images with ALTs and
assessing the viability of the resulting page.

Received on Friday, 17 March 2000 13:59:12 UTC

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