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RE: Mail order catalogues was Re: Cognition Simulation

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 20:12:01 -0700
To: "WAI GL" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
> No matter how you cut it, if the graphics aren't there, NO ONE
> benefits....

I agree completely. That's why I am strongly in favor of graphics on Web
pages *provided those graphics add to the comprehensibility of the page*.
Note that I qualified my statement. You keep drawing the issue in black and
white terms, turning my qualification into a prohibition. It's the old
either-or fallacy:

Either we add graphics to Web pages to enhance comprehensibility, or we
don't and everyone suffers.

With this twist, you make it an argument about *whether* graphics are
included. But I am arguing about *how* graphics are included. It is not the
same thing at all.

So let me rephrase my point:

If we do not exercise caution when adding graphics to Web pages, we will not
only fail to increase comprehensibility, but also deprive some users of
access entirely.

The truth is not either-or. It is multi-shaded. The truth is that graphics
and other non-text content *do not* automatically increase
comprehensibility. The are just as likely to decrease it. So any graphics
that might be eliminated by my restrictions ("judicious use") *cannot* -- by
the very nature of my limitation -- *hurt* comprehensibility. If a graphic
aids comprehensibility, my restrictions say to include it. It is only when a
graphic is of no use to comprehensibility (or hurts comprehensibility) that
I say to remove it.

It is also important to understand that comprehensibility must consider the
big picture. You might argue that an individual graphic enhances the
comprehensibility of one particular concept on a page. But the addition of
that graphic to a page already cluttered with graphics might decrease the
overall comprehensibility of the page. Again, the key word is "judicious" as
in "wise and careful." What could be wrong with that?

> Bandwidth-intensive content cannot deprive anyone of anything. It is the
> receiving hardware that deprives. That is the point of saying "Include
> Illustrations" .... if they aren't there, everyone loses no matter which
> world they live in.

No, you have it backwards. That's like saying that someone is "confined" to
a wheelchair, that his wheelchair "deprives" him of access if it doesn't fit
into the men's room.

The older computers and software available to poor people do not deprive
them, they liberate them. When we devise content that will not work on that
equipment, we destroy that liberation and deny access. Are we unable to deny
ourselves any luxury at all, even if that luxury disenfranchises others?

So we insist on flashy, bandwidth-hogging sites -- flashiness that is as
likely to hurt as to help comprehension -- and the poor be damned.

There are two issues here:

One goal is to make Web sites comprehensible. To this end, a mix of media is
required. But how we approach that mix can determine whether a page is
denied to some or available to all.

Another goal is to make sure that people are not denied access to the Web
because of geographic or economic constraints.

We can, if we place sensible qualifications on our recommendations to use
non-text content, achieve both goals.

Chas. Munat
Received on Thursday, 30 August 2001 23:09:38 UTC

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