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Re: Illustrating Guidelines

From: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 14:28:07 -0700
Message-ID: <067201c0da61$55181b60$6601a8c0@sttln1.wa.home.com>
To: <apembert45@lycos.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
----- Original Message -----
From: "Anne Pemberton" <apembert45@lycos.com>
>     Your basic logic has a serious flaw that is probably contributing to
failure to comprehend the similarities I'm presenting...
> Do you understand where you err? Or do I need to illustrate the logic?

Please do. I think I'm seeing all sides clearly, and I'm getting a lot of
mixed messages.

This is where I'd like you to clarify:

- You're advocating illustrating the guidelines, and I've said that
illustration should be available, but that many of the checkpoints are too
technical or involved to produce helpful illustration.

- You've advocated illustrating documents (to augment textual content) as a
P1 requirement. I've said that those skills are not there in most content
providers, and where they are, they have a potential to do harm as well as
good. This cannot be said of things like alt text, device-independence, and
synchronized scripts. And the best methods of presenting certain types of
content are so diverse, providers have to be trusted to know what their
content is intended to convey, and make decisions as to how their messages
are most effective universally. I see no net positive in raising the bar for

To expand on my previous assertion:
I said 100% of blind users cannot use images. You countered by saying 100%
of "non-readers" cannot use pages without images. (What you mean by
"non-reader," be it fully or functionally illiterate, or just that the user
performs better with images, is important context.)
Using the guideline for creating alt text, 100% of blind users _can_ access
the relevant content within the images, with zero net effect on other web
users. How many non-readers can access the relevant content in pure symbolic
form? That's highly dependent on the message, the author, and the medium,
and can only be 100% for extremely simple messages. In most content out
there, I'd wager, the percentage of users who would benefit would approach
zero, and the presence of an abundance of symbols in place of or
interspersed with text can be detrimental to usability for the rest of the

- Now, in this last message, it appears that you're really trying to get
standalone graphics (in the absence of, or as a complete replacement for
textual content) to be a P1 requirement, and I don't see any way that
position can be justified. Even your own G3 illustrations are highly
textual. I can think of no more than a couple sites where the meaning can be
conveyed in images alone.

I've tried several times to explain that people can't readily communicate
(transmit) ideas using symbols, no matter how high a priority is made of it.
Before we can say we _should_ be doing something, we have to be able to
prove we _can_, and I'm seeing no evidence that the kinds of things you're
suggesting can be accomplished, even before issues like resource constraints
come into play.

In order to achieve single-A compliance, all P1s have to be met. Whether or
not this was intended, organizations usually choose a compliance level,
rather than cherry-picking checkpoints, and they evaluate their level of
compliance based on the resources they have to expend and the skills they
have to employ. If they see something in the guidelines that would take up
the kind of resources that illustration would require, the best we can hope
for is that the checkpoint will go ignored. The more common case is that
they'll ignore WCAG entirely and go for another solution, or none at all.

Saying these wishes are top priority and have to go in right now, without a
careful analysis of overall usability and what this means to the web as a
whole, is in my opinion an ineffective approach which would ultimately be
destructive to the overarching goals of the guidelines.

Received on Friday, 11 May 2001 17:38:26 UTC

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