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RE: Javascript alternatives not necessary?

From: Michael Cooper <michaelc@watchfire.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 11:21:22 -0400
Message-ID: <A0666B3C59F1634290FDC88674D87C3206DE56@1WFEMAIL.ottawa.watchfire.com>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

This thread has been illuminating because it's showing that there are two
separate issues which have been confounded. Perhaps it will be useful to
treat them separately.

1) There is the issue of whether a text alternative for non-text content
should be required if that content itself is accessible.

2) Then there is the question of how widely supported the accessibility
features of a non-text format must be before the first question becomes
relevant. 

The second question is a tangent off the first one, but one we need to
address. Somebody pointed out that as technologies evolve, there will always
be the situation that there are new technologies that are not yet
universally supported, or whose accessibility features aren't universally
supported. So we need a stance on that in the guidelines. Separately, we
also need a position for the case of non-text technologies that are in fact
universally supported. I will leave aside the argument of which present-day
technologies (if any) may fall into that category - that is an issue we will
have to wrestle with in techniques but shouldn't impact the guidelines.

Here are the steps I think we should take:

A) I think members of the group will agree that non-text technologies that
are not accessible, whether for lack of accessibility features or for lack
of support for the accessibility features on some os/browser/at combinations
require text alternatives. Mainly I'm just reiterating that here, it's
already in the guidelines, but if there's disagreement about that here's a
forum to raise it.

B) I propose that, if a non-text technology is accessible, we not require
text alternatives. I would be interested to hear if there is disagreement
with that. Otherwise I will write up a more complete proposal around that
and we can discuss the merits more completely.

C) Then we need to struggle with a way the guidelines describe the way of
determining whether a particular non-text technology fits into category A or
B above. Some have said that the technology and its accessibility features
must be supported in all Web browsers and AT combinations before it is
considered accessible. Others have said that is an impossible standard, as
the Web is diverse and we can't control or even know about the variety of
user agents out there, and what we need is a way of saying enough user
agents support the technology and its accessibility features that most users
are covered. One response to this is that "most" is not enough and therefore
proposal B above is a non-starter, and all non-text technologies require
text alternatives. That brings us full circle to the question that started
this thread.

Perhaps it would be useful for people to provide their opinions on each of
those three steps separately. The separate answers don't have to support
each other; I would consider it acceptable to say to B that you agree with
the principle, but agree in C that the principle can't be activated and
therefore B is meaningless. That's not the only combination of answers of
course, just an example of one kind of useful even though internally
inconsistent response people might make.

I'm carefully steering clear of mentioning any example technologies here.
The examples raised earlier sparked some of the discussion that led here and
was useful, but I'd like to avoid getting caught up in particular
technologies now as we try to resolve this general issue.

Michael
Received on Thursday, 22 July 2004 11:21:43 UTC

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