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Textual Images vs. Styled Text, Round Two *ding*

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 12:01:08 -0700
Message-Id: <a05001903b5f7e0ef7d6d@[207.218.50.189]>
To: "Leonard R. Kasday" <kasday@acm.org>, Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>, "Poehlman, David" <David.Poehlman@usmint.treas.gov>, "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org, WAI ER group <w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org>, WAI UA group <w3c-wai-ua@w3.org>
At 9:23 AM -0400 9/27/00, Leonard R. Kasday wrote:
>Some people are saying that it's OK to have small text in an image 
>because the user can use a screen magnifier.
>However, it's better to use HTML text, and let the user control the 
>size, font, and color of the text directly, instead of using images 
>text and a magnifier.

It's "better" by some standards -- it's "better" for accessibility,
certainly.  No one is actually disputing that.  (Indeed, Edapta's
web morphing service explicitly replaces images with styled
textual equivalents when edapting pages for many audiences, as
well as providing the capacity to create variant-size button
sets.)

However, it is important to recognize that HTML + CSS is _not_ a
workable general replacement for images as text.  Most graphical
web designers will _not_ accept styled text as a solution because
of the following:

(1)  CSS is not widely implemented yet and excludes older browsers.
(2)  CSS support on Netscape (and to a lesser extent, IE) is seriously
      buggy and cannot be relied upon.
(3)  Graphical designers may have valid reasons for desiring a
      specific font that is not widely available (and thus styles
      are not acceptable).
(4)  There are a number of effects available in images which cannot
      be replicated by using styled text. As examples, consider
      drop shadows on text, or mouseover "glow auras".

My personal philosophy regarding web accessibility is that "we" (the
people who understand accessibility principles and in some cases
write the guidelines) should _not_ be telling a web designer that
she should "stop using that."  Instead, we should tell her how to
"make it accessible", whatever she's using.  (Be it Flash, animated
GIFs, Streaming Audio, etc.)

It is "our" responsibility (as informed advocates for web accessibility)
to provide the right answers, and we have a responsibility to not
leave the web designer hanging -- it is not acceptable to say "don't
use that thing which meets your needs, instead use this method
which will not."

I suggest therefore that instead of looking for ways to _forbid_
textual images, we should rather concentrate our energies on ways
to make textual images more accessible.  That may require user
agent guidelines, it may require web content guidelines, but simply
throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not sufficient.

Let's be realistic here, folks -- we _cannot_ force most web designers
to give up their textual images.  If that is a requirement for
double-A accessibility, then _web designers will not design double
A sites_, period.  If given a choice between the benefits of graphical
text (and you are living in denial if you claim there there are not
benefits from a design standpoint!) and accessibility, accessibility
_will lose_.

Bottom line:  We should _not_ be forcing web designers to have to
make that choice!  _We_ should be out finding the way to "do it
right" rather than trying to say "don't do it at all."

--Kynn
-- 
--
Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
http://www.kynn.com/
Received on Wednesday, 27 September 2000 17:40:19 GMT

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