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[1.2] Captions and audio descriptions at level 1?

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 12:52:47 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E1CtPFi-0004Ck-Ma@frink.w3.org>
 Hello everyone, 

Captions and audio descriptions are hard

For some time now, I've felt there is a big problem with the requirements at
level 1 of guideline 1.2. At the moment we require both captions and audio
descriptions. That feels like a very tall order to me. Issue 1151 talks
about scoping schemes that might help to cope with this but to me it feels
strange that we would write guidelines for which we know even level 1 is so
hard to achieve that websites that have multimedia content would almost have
to use scoping to comply. Also, I have heard people say repeatedly that they
do NOT want horizontal scoping, i.e. 'my entire website is accessible accept
for the images'. Allowing horizontal scoping for multimedia feels
inconsistent to me.

Let's remember that a large portion of the web content out there is not made
by professional companies with multimillion budgets for their websites. A
lot of web content is made by individuals, non-profit organizations or small
companies. With the growing bandwidth available, more of these websites will
want to include multimedia. I predict that if they see WCAG requires them to
do audio descriptions and captions, they will either choose not to follow
WCAG or not use multimedia at all. Both cases will harm accessibility since
multimedia is very helpful for people with cognitive disabilities.

Another problem is that it takes professionals to create good captions and
audio descriptions. If done by well-willing amateurs, chances are they will
not produce anything that is usable for the people who need it. I think
those people would be better served by a good textual description than by
bad captions and audio descriptions or no multimedia at all.

Real-world example

Our company built software for entering information about the history of a
village. The software itself publishes the information online on a website (
<http://www.erfgoedoverijssel.nl/> http://www.erfgoedoverijssel.nl, Dutch

This software is being used by the local historical society where volunteers
are entering documents about their village. The software allows them to
attach images, video and audio files to the documents they are describing.
For example: a 1945 film of the liberation of the village by Canadians. 

Since we want the website to be accessible, we had to think of a way to have
the volunteers enter the metadata to make the multimedia accessible. Doing
captions and audio descriptions was not an option, because there is no
budget for training the volunteers, that's not what the volunteers signed up
for and it would be costly to build it into the software. We decided to just
have a title and a description field where volunteers can describe the
multimedia in detail. In the website, the titles are used as the alternative
for the multimedia and the description is available through a hyperlink
(this information is also valued highly by visitors without special needs).

At this point in time, the only type of media that has been entered is
images (no multimedia). The website meets WCAG1 level AA and almost all of
the AAA requirements as well.

Now this is where it gets ugly: As soon as one of the volunteers adds a
video, no WCAG conformance can be claimed at all anymore!! We drop from
almost AAA to zero. But I really feel we did do everything we could to make
the website accessible.

My proposal

To make WCAG2 a success, I really want level 1 to be feasible for all
websites without having to use scoping. As a litmus test, I think all of our
level 1 success criteria should be doable for non-professionals with limited
time, skills and budget. 

For multimedia, I propose that at level 1 we just require a label and text
description. The requirement for audio descriptions and captions would then
move to level 2.

Yvette Hoitink
Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
WWW:  <http://www.heritas.nl/> http://www.heritas.nl 
Received on Tuesday, 25 January 2005 11:52:58 UTC

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