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Clear and simple writing

From: Joe Clark <joeclark@contenu.nu>
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 21:26:28 -0500
Message-Id: <a05100310b828a72e2e6c@[]>
To: WAI-GL <w3c-wai-gl@W3.org>
>Secondly you do not need  alternate content. I do not know who is 
>distracted by non animated, relevant, illustrative pictures.

People who don't want to see them, that's who. alt texts are hidden 
unless needed; titles are not shown until selected in all 
implementations I have seen; longdesc must be explicitly called up.

On the other hand, an image on a page sits there and stares at you. 
It is not the same as a sound file or a Flash animation that plays as 
soon as you load a page, but it is in the same category: It's 
unwanted non-text content.

>If text works for you, great, ignore the illustrations.

The presence of illustrations alters the layout and continuity of the 
text and adds text equivalents of its own that may be visible or 

>Accessibility does not mean removing or minimizing pictorial content.

Accessibility means that the removal or minimization of pictorial 
content must be accommodated. These provisions take into account an 

The plan to require the addition of images is not the converse. The 
two are not parallel or equivalent.

To sum up a well-argued position:

* If WCAG 2.0 requires the addition of IMAT (image or multimedia 
alternatives to text), people will either ignore the requirement or 
refuse to comply with any group of requirements, priority level, or 
module that includes it.

* If WCAG 2.0 strongly encourages the addition of IMAT (the terms 
"whenever possible" will work wonders here), lo and behold page 
authors will actually do it.

* Charles's list of techniques <http://www.w3.org/2001/11/334-wcag> 
must be considered illustrative; they're a partially helpful how-to 
listing for befuddled authors who don't know where to begin. It is 
nonetheless trivial to find counterexamples to many of those 
guidelines, which betray an anti-*writing* as opposed to an 
anti-*text* bias. Talented, experienced, and/or professional writers, 
as actual experts in the practice of writing, will reject the advice 
outright if it is advanced as a requirement. (WAI has a history of 
setting requirements and listing examples that are unrealistic and 
betray inexperience.)

* In simple terms, requiring authors to provide text equivalents for 
images and the like is not the same as requiring them (a) to write a 
certain way and (b) to use IMAT. In fact, both of those requirements, 
if enacted, will trigger an unprecedented firestorm of opposition, 
much of it principled and on the money. Strong encouragement, on the 
other hand, will actually result in the addition of IMAT to Web pages.

As usual, these objections will be immediately and falsely 
interpreted as calling the entire enterprise of IMAT into dispute. I 
would say a very strong case has been made that IMAT is necessary. 
It's *requiring* IMAT and telling people *specifically* how to write 
that will not work and will incur intense public objections.

And now we wait for Gregg to write in about one's "tone."
   Joe Clark | joeclark@joeclark.org | <http://joeclark.org/access/>
   Accessibility articles, resources, and critiques ||
       "I can't pretend to understand the mind of Joe Clark"
       -- Larry Goldberg
Received on Monday, 26 November 2001 21:27:47 UTC

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