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

Re: Multimode expression

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 21:59:43 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: Joe Clark <joeclark@joeclark.org>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
At 07:56 PM 8/11/2001, Joe Clark wrote:
>If, on the other hand, WCAG 2.0 says something like "Whenever possible, 
>use a range of modes of expression," with a nice explanation of what we 
>mean by that ("You may not know that learning-disabled people need the 
>following"), we can expect people to start using such techniques for new 
>documents and retrofit older documents as it becomes possible.

By "whenever possible" what do we mean?

(1) Whenever you (feel you) have the resources to do it?
(2) Whenever you want to do it?
(3) Whenever humanly possible?
(4) At all times, period, since it's always possible to use a range
     of modes of expression?
(5) Whenever you can afford to do it?

Do we mean something different from when we say "provide textual
equivalents for images"?  In what way?  What sort of "exception"
should we provide or further explanation for what we mean here
by qualifying this statement, that we don't mean other places?

I agree that ultimatums are less than desirable, but vagueness also
introduces a danger into the equation at all.  Too often it can
create no-man's-land battlegrounds over whether or not something
has "satisfied the checkpoint", as the page author interprets
"whenever possible" to mean "whenever I feel like it", and the
page user interprets it as "whatever I need for access."

It also relates to the nature of what we are trying to do here;
are we trying to define "what it takes to make a page more accessible
to a number of audiences" or are we trying to define "those things
that can be done which we feel web authors would want to do"?

At one time, "adding alternative text to every image" seemed like
"a good idea, but not practical" to a majority of web authors.  For
some applications -- e.g. a webcam showing a street outside an office
-- a longdesc is impractical and an alt attribute does not provide
full information.  And yet we still tend to speak of alt text as
an ultimatum, an absolute.  Even if it is _impractical_ to have
alt text or a longdesc on my street cam, it's still true that it is
*less accessible* and provides a barrier to access if someone who
is sighted can see facts (such as "what the weather is outside, who
is walking past, how many people are outside, what cars are going
by") and someone who is blind cannot see it.  So WCAG (1.0 and 2.0)
tell me, the author, that I am creating a circumstance where
accessibility is reduced for certain audiences.

Likewise, if I fail to provide adequate non-textual modes of expression,
I am also introducing accessibility barriers.  If WCAG is merely a
test for accessibility (or a definition of it) then it _must_ flag
those as accessibility problems.  This doesn't necessarily say whether
or not WCAG's purpose is to DEMAND changes; in fact there's an argument
to be said that it shouldn't.

So I am worried about any "guarded wording" that seems to say "this
is only an accessibility error if you feel like it" or "if you can
afford to deal with it, then it's an accessibility barrier, but if
you just can't do it, it's not."

That's the problem with the checkpoint as proposed.  I welcome a
rewrite that addresses.

Received on Sunday, 12 August 2001 00:34:04 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 16 January 2018 15:33:38 UTC