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Re: More on 3.4

From: Matt May <mcmay@bestkungfu.com>
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2001 08:37:40 -0700
Message-ID: <035701c11a9f$f657b570$6501a8c0@vaio>
To: "Charles McCathieNevile" <charles@w3.org>
Cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, "Anne Pemberton" <apembert@erols.com>

----- Original Message -----
From: "Charles McCathieNevile" <charles@w3.org>
>   The 1.0 guidelines do no such thing. In the case of alt text and
>   synchronized scripts, all that happens is that shortcomings of
>   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
> other end cannot understand a picture.

MM  It's a technical limitation of GIFs and JPEGs that metadata can't be
stored within, which is why alt text is tied into the HTML anchor. It's a
technical limitation of Flash that users can't control the speed of the
presentation, so WCAG ensures that Flash movies implement control.
Technology is the means to overcome the user's limitation, and WCAG (and
ATAG and UAAG) uses technology throughout.

> MM
>   I honestly don't see why anything more needs to be said, or why this
>   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
> do in order to make sure that their message gets to more of the people.
> 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 Here's more of that philosophy stuff:
First, the reason I'm bothered by this is that it's going to be tied to a
compliance scheme, and when they are adopted as goals in organizations or
governments, they become de facto rules, and we _are_ ordering these

And yet, I remain unconvinced that rules can or should be made of 3.3 and
3.4 (though I should underscore that they should be there nonetheless). They
are both pretty firmly in the generic usability realm, and nearly all the
science there is experiential. That's why we test the stuff! Changes in
content can often lose as many people as it helps, especially when
implemented as some golden ratio, and that's why I see this as the wrong
approach. That is, content that is more accessible for some people with a
certain disability may be less accessible for others with the same

If any of the usability divas could create general rules for content, I'd
guarantee you that the books in the field would be a whole lot shorter (and
better written!). But guidelines for content itself are necessarily
situational. Making rules that apply for all content is an idea as quixotic
as making a law setting pi to 3.2 -- though that, too, has been

> MM
>   I see the current 3.4 lulling
>   authors into a false sense of security with "success criteria" that
>   lead to more comprehensible sites. It's not that easy.
> 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
> keeps pointing out), and we have not yet got to the point where we shold
> remove the general statement.

MM Success criteria for a checkpoint like 3.4 belong in a style guide, which
could be hundreds of pages long.

> 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
> it, or that I can draw a sequence of diagrams, comment as I go, filming
> whole lot, and that providing a text alternative isn't a chage of format
> an "invasive" (your word) requirement on how I preseent the information.

MM But all of this is replacement content, meant to fill a hole left by an
inaccessible portion of the document. It doesn't change the content or flow
of a document. Images and multimedia augment the content on the page, and as
such, they do change its format. They are invasive in a way that 1.0 rules
are not.

> 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
> world around them, to provide text equivalents for sounds of all kinds...

MM But not to communicate visually. This has been taken for granted
consistently in this thread as a skill people have, and my experience with
trained professionals tells me it is not.

> 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
> 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
> Accessiblity Guidelines Group is so important. It is a major goal of the
> 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 I was referring to "skills and tools" as a set not including "Authoring
Tools". What I meant was that anyone who has access to HTML and CSS source,
a text editor, and knowledge of those languages can make the changes. The
difference with 3.4 is that where the 1.0 requirements can be done using no
more than semi-skilled labor, low technology and no content-development
skills, and can usually be done after the actual content, suddenly 3.4 needs
not only graphic design skills and tools, but also usability training (if
not testing) _and_ content skills, all in one package, and much earlier in
the design phase of sites than a large percentage of sites are prepared for.
(And yes, I'm expecting someone to say that's just tough for the sites, but
if you can't retrofit for accessibility in the late stages of design, you
can't make much of the content out there today "accessible", nor can you do
it with repurposed content. The accessible world gets smaller and

> MM
>   And authors should
>   be able to interpret the images down to alt text using their knowledge
>   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
>   the drop of a hat.
> But then, teaching literacy at the drop of a hat has also proved somewhat
> challenging...

MM Textual and visual literacy both. A great many concepts, from
poorly-illustrated simple ones to brilliantly-illustrated complex ones, will
remain incomprehensible. The important element here is quality, not

[1] The Indiana State House attempted to recognize this "mathematical
truth" -- royalty-free -- in 1897:

Received on Wednesday, 1 August 2001 11:38:10 UTC

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