W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > July to September 2001

Re: RE Checkpoint 3.4 again

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 07:44:16 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: "gregory j. rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>
Cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
At 11:46 PM 7/30/2001 , gregory j. rosmaita wrote:
>GJR: take it from someone for whom the issue isn't theoretical: a
>book-on-tape produced from a print edition with requisite quality control
>(as performed by NLS or RFB&D, in the states, where the reading of the text
>is monitored for accuracy during the recording process, then double-checked
>through a read-along) is an equivalent...

Except you have to remember that most people in the states aren't
aware of this, and part of the -value- of book-on-tape to them is the
fact that someone famous is reading it.  Thus there's an inherent
inequivalency in the whole process; different emotional responses,
different ways of using the book, different economics.

>second, you are implying that only an "absolute equivalent" is acceptable;
>that may be the case for someone to whom the question of equivalencies is
>theoretical, or, phrased less combatively, less than a P1 issue; [...]

quote "These two are more equal than those two." endquote

See, the problem is with natural language understanding of the term
"equivalent," and that's where a lot of people get hung up in WCAG
1.0 and other docs.  How often have we seen questions over "what
should the right text equivalent be for this image?"

The difference between equivalents and parallels:

1.  An "equivalent" is meant to be "equal", and most people think in
     terms of mathematics where equality is an absolute.  It's thought
     of as crazy to say something is "more equal" than something else.
     With the term "equivalent" we have to battle peoples' preconceived
     notions of what "equal" means.

2.  The term "equivalent" also puts too much emphasis on one "sainted"
     format as being the primary, and the rest have to be "equivalent"
     to that one.  This hides the true semantics and content, which is
     really what we are looking for.  It's less important that alt
     text be equivalent to the _image_ as much as it's equivalent to
     the _content_ and _semantics_ of the image.

3.  The term "parallel" rightly puts the emphasis back on the content
     and semantics by giving a sense that BOTH of these things (the 
     image and the text, say) -- or ALL of them -- are just expressions
     of the underlying information and information architecture.  A
     "parallel" to an image serves the same function and conveys the
     same information as the image, while an "equivalent" of an image
     focuses on trying to "equate" to that particular image, which is
     just an expression of the concepts BEHIND the image.

>let's stop couching the conversation in terms of absolutes -- WCAG is not,
>nor could it ever be "absolute" -- no individual or group could ever
>definitively permute all of the potential use scenarios...

But this isn't about absolutes, it's about how we look at "equivalents",
text or otherwise, and it's about how we write our document so that it
can be understood better.  I think -- especially when we are dealing
with issues _more_ complex than alt text -- that a sense of "parallel"
may be more understandable and may emphasize the important parts (the
semantics, e.g.) better than "equivalent."  That's all.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Tel +1 949-567-7006
Received on Tuesday, 31 July 2001 10:57:29 UTC

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