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Re: Guide to Guidelines

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 00:00:11 +0100 (BST)
To: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
cc: WAI Guidelines List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.4.21-pb.0009122322360.9543-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Tue, 12 Sep 2000, Anne Pemberton wrote:

> Myself, I liked very much William's site that included graphics.

I would like to take up this point too, if I may.  I had already, in
an email, expressed general pleasure with William's article (while
raising a few technical details which he has now addressed).

One recurring theme of my interactions with other web authors is their
apparent deeply-held belief that by asking for accessibility, we want
to forbid them to include colour, movement or any other kind of media,
and boil everything down to black text-only on a mid-grey background.
I really have no idea where this silly belief comes from, but my
observation is that it is amazingly widespread, and deeply ingrained.

What I feel is desperately needed, alongside the entirely competent
and necessary - but somewhat "academic" guidelines from the group, are
some really convincing demonstrations[1] of pages which have
widespread appeal to the mass audience - while at the same time being
very accessible to all kinds of unusual browsing situations.  
Otherwise we are continually "up against" this argument that
accessible design is absolutely unusuable in a mass/commercial
environment, and can only be considered when pages are authored for a
specialised audience or community.  The exact opposite of what I'm
hoping to see.

[Anne writes...]
> The result
> is a much more inviting presentation. The criticism of the animated
> graphics as a "bad idea" is misplaced. The first time I viewed the page, I
> didn't even notice there was animation until I had gone through the whole
> page and returned to the top to look it over a second time noting the
> details including the animation. Not all people, and not even all "visual"
> people, are "distracted" by animation. Motion is a part of life. Compared
> to the original, all text, no color, no graphics presentation, this version
> is very inviting and gives the impression that accessibility is do-able
> without throwing away the baby with the bath water. 

Exactly!

Those in our audience who are, for example, distressed by unexpected
motion on a web page have every right to get client software that
blocks it, or otherwise processes it to meet their requirements.  The
key feature of the WWW, to my way of thinking, is that it enables us
to offer content in a form that can gracefully adapt itself to each
reader's needs and requirements.  But this is not done solely by the
author creating content to fit every possible circumstance: the web is
a co-production, based on the concept of many different client/browser
situations "rendering" the content in a form that's suitable for each
reader.

It's little short of maddening that, looking around the web, we see
such tremendous effort currently being put into factoring-out this
flexibility, in a stubborn belief that the sole purpose of design is
to ensure that everyone will literally _see_ exactly the same view -
or else (it seems these authors believe) it would be better that they
get nothing at all.  After all that effort having been put in to
defeat the inherent flexibility of the web, those authors then have
the gall to inform us that they "cannot afford" the effort to write a
few ALT attributes for their images, and so on.

The whole message of the web to me was that we are freed from the
inflexibility of such paper-based thinking, and can use any available
additional effort not for factoring-out the flexibility, but for
factoring-in additional options.


[1] I only wish I could produce some convincing examples myself; but
although I feel I can recognize what I'm looking for when I see it,
I have to admit that - coming from an academic and verbal background
myself, and having no particular graphical design skills - I'm not
the person to do this, and some of my ham-fisted attempts may have
done more harm than good.  Some readers might be familiar with the
"Top 3 HTML Straw Man Arguments" at
http://ppewww.ph.gla.ac.uk/~flavell/www/html-smac.html
which looks at some of the same issues, but again with a predominatly
verbal approach.

Best regards
Received on Tuesday, 12 September 2000 19:00:15 GMT

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