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Re: Illustrating Guidelines

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 06:09:46 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>, <ryladog@earthlink.net>, "3WC WCAG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 07:26 AM 5/10/01 -0400, Anne Pemberton wrote:
>I do disagree with you that pictures are less universal than languages.

I "disagree" that the "pictures" you cite (schematic wiring diagrams) are: 
universal; not languages. They are: totally meaningless to someone not 
extensively trained (hence not, in the usual meaning of the word, 
universal) in their syntax/grammar/vocabulary; and they do constitute a 

Words are used by far more human communicants than are pictures (except for 
the, in this case, specious argument that text is "pictures of speech"). 
The latter have less precision and in that sense a "picture" of a circuit 
board communicates almost nothing to someone who would reproduce it. Even a 
largely ideographically depicted language like Chinese uses some of the 
ideograms to signify their sound rather than their meaning, hence the 
widespread emergence of ideophonic (and particularly Romanized) renditions 
of spoken language.

Despite any wrangling about this, the point that illustration ranges from 
distracting through pleasant to indispensable has been well made. I believe 
that the notion of "repurposing" should not cite text as "first among 
equals" but I fear that politics/religion will make such an idea hard to 
get into the guidelines. Hope I'm wrong about that.

Incidentally the near-unresolvable thread about the nature of the "text 
alternative" for graphics underlines the point that it is a vain illusion 
that words can replace pictures with any degree of universal acceptance, 
which is of course the argument we've used to excuse the failure to have a 
parallel "graphic alternative to text" in the guidelines. Both are in a 
strict sense impossible. We have just come to agree on more words than we 
have pictures.

We so often speak of "requirements" that we forget who we are - 
recommenders, not regulators. I no longer have any doubt that we should 
(strongly?) *recommend* that all the marvelous features of the 
communicative process be used, with proper options for the user to decide 
which to ignore/utilize/modify. When this is too great a burden on a 
designer they simply won't "comply" but that's up to some complex social 
contract to allow/prohibit.

</ rant/pontification>

Received on Thursday, 10 May 2001 09:08:21 UTC

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