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Re: More on 3.4

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 23:30:29 -0400 (EDT)
To: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0107312303520.29491-100000@tux.w3.org>
On Tue, 31 Jul 2001, Matt May wrote:

  The 1.0 guidelines do no such thing. In the case of alt text and
  synchronized scripts, all that happens is that shortcomings of _technology_
  are overcome.

CMN This is not true. It is nothing to do with a limitation of the
technology, it is the fact that however good the technology, the user at the
other end cannot understand a picture. Which is in fact what your next
sentence says. (it is a historical accident and a difference between the Web
and television that it is easier to build text-based ssystems, so they were
once in general use and are still popular in various specialised use
scenarios) Furthermore, the guidelines actually tell people _HOW_ to
interpret that content - in terms of some functional role, not too long
unless it is marked as such, and so forth.

MM
  WCAG 1 asks authors to use their eyes and ears to take down
  technical barriers to those who can't use their eyes or ears.

  All of WCAG 1,
  save 14.1 (clear and simple language), boils down to:
  1) use the technology appropriately; and
  2) where the technology can't make itself accessible, do it yourself.

  This includes 14.2, the predecessor of 3.4:
  14.2 Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations where they will
  facilitate comprehension of the page. [Priority 3]

  I honestly don't see why anything more needs to be said, or why this needs
  to be tied to some metric for words to pictures, as has been suggested.
  Authors need to be reminded that this is a consideration to be made with
  content, not ordered to change how they produce it, or given some number
  they can interpret as being satisfactory.

CMN We aren't ordering people to do stuff, we are telling them what they can
do in order to make sure that their message gets to more of the people. And
the more accurately we can explain that, the easier it is for authors to
understand what we mean and to put it into practise effectively.
MM
  I see the current 3.4 lulling
  authors into a false sense of security with "success criteria" that don't
  lead to more comprehensible sites. It's not that easy.

CMN
I agree. I think the success criteria we have as Wendy's prpoposal are
necessary, but not sufficient (and maybe we still need to work on them as Joe
keeps pointing out), and we have not yet got to the point where we shold
remove the general statement.

MM
  WCAG 1 tells people what to do with their message, without necessarily
  changing its format.

CMN This is not true. There isn't any possible interpretation that says
drawing a map is the same format as having to provide a text alternative for
it, or that I can draw a sequence of diagrams, comment as I go, filming the
whole lot, and that providing a text alternative isn't a chage of format and
an "invasive" (your word) requirement on how I preseent the information.

This is not a rare scenario: Think of distance education, which in some
countries (like Australia) is a major proportion of all education, or of
providing audio descriptions of TV or stage plays.

MM
  The current 3.4 requires a direct change in content
  itself, which is much more invasive and bound to be ignored, even where it
  is actually feasible (which my experience tells me is not often). I think
  WCAG 1 got it right.
AP
  > An author who intended content to be a graphic
  > is required to expand that concept to include an alt text and sometimes a
  > long description. Do we ask if the author has the skills or tools to do
  so?
  > No, we just say do it ....
MM
  We do assume that the author has the skills and tools to make a site
  accessible.

CMN For example the ability to write, to interpret graphical content from the
world around them, to provide text equivalents for sounds of all kinds...

MM
  Every rule in 1.0 can be implemented for HTML and CSS using the
  same tools and skills the author used to create the site.

CMN This is not true. Unfortunately most Authoring Tools make it difficult to
produce accessible content, although they make it easy for some people to
produce content. That's one of the reasons why the work of the Authoring Tool
Accessiblity Guidelines Group is so important. It is a major goal of the Web
that anyone author their own content, which means people need tools that
support them to do that, and to do it accessibly. (On the positive side,
tools are getting better).

MM
  And authors should
  be able to interpret the images down to alt text using their knowledge of
  both the content and context of the image (that is, we _already_ are
  depending on the author's knowledge of his or her content to make things
  accessible). What they can't do, reliably, is learn visual communication at
  the drop of a hat.

CMN
But then, teaching literacy at the drop of a hat has also proved somewhat
challenging...

MM
  Which introduces another problem that hasn't as yet been asked: if graphical
  representations are required in a document to make them "accessible", does
  that not preclude nearly every author who is blind from creating accessible
  documents?

CMN
This has been discussed - I recall Marti raising it some 6 - 12 months ago.
And the answer is that if a blind author cannot find illustrations of their
content, and cannot write in reasonably simple and accessible language, then
no, they are not going to make their site accessible to everyone. Any more
than a person whose aphasia effectively prevents them from producing text
equivalents for the things they have just drawn.

Again on the positive side, thre is a lot of work being done on ways of
finding existing illustration for things, or of enabling people to author
graphical content even without seeing it. Technology such as SVG and the
semantic Web enables this, although it will take time for enough content to
be generated that it is readily available to anyone.

CHeers

Charles
Received on Tuesday, 31 July 2001 23:30:34 GMT

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