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Re: Dealing with Artistes

From: Nick Traenkner <nick@kentinfoworks.com>
Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 16:13:33 -0500
Message-ID: <3655DB7C.D1B65210@kentinfoworks.com>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Kynn Bartlett wrote:

> Sometimes when trying to explain the importance of accessibility
> to web authors, and they run out of reasonable arguments against
> it :), they produce something akin to the following:
>    But I'm an artiste'!  My work is purely graphical and
>    means nothing to someone is blind; they are not the
>    target audience for my gallery of visual artwork, and
>    so I don't need to be concerned with them.
> What do you feel is the best response to this -- or are they
> right?

First off, I believe the gallery would be responsible formaking it accessible
(or enforcing it's accessibility on the designer)
But I don't think its  the designer's call. It is certainly not the
artist whose work is being translated to the web's responsibility

Rarely is the WWW a medium in itself. An Escher print might
not be accessible as it is, but have a narrator describe the work and
now it is. Or is it? Visual artists might produce an image and it may
be served over the WWW. But is it their responsibility to add test descriptions?

Let's say an artist created a work that is heavily textured so the blind can
interpret elements of it. Let's say the painting is photographed and
it's image places on the web. Even if the image is described, the texture is
Is this accessible?

I hate to say it, but if you think about the web like television, where it
becomes the publisher's, not the artists, responsability to alt-tag the work
the issue may be easier to see (not that television does a good job at
but the idea that the medium of the WWW is not a medium like
acrylic paint is a medium (in this example), but media like broadcast
that serves groups of people with all sorts of needs and wants.

Now, lets talk about the other case, where the medium IS the web.

I am a self-learning student of what might be called 'net-art', art disseminated

over the internet, which uses the WWW as a medium. A medium like acrylic
paint is a medium. My paint is hypertext, images, HTML code, javascript,
audio files, and a multitude of other non-accessible media/conventions. I will
admit that nine times out of ten my net-art is not accesssible, and this is a
A symphony can be felt by the deaf, a painting or sculpture can be felt by the
If I write a hypertext poem that uses background colors and images, not to make
the page
visually appealing, but to communicate voice and tone to the reader (red might
be angry,
blue might be calm) there is no way a blind user can touch the screen and get
those impressions.
If I include a bit of text on an alternate version, the rythym is changed and
the poem becomes
something else.

Is multimedia art inaccessible?

What about kinetic light-based art? Like art that is made up of lasers? Is this

Here's an opposing question intended to open the problem up.

Let's say I have developed a work for speech-reader, a work that
uses the tonal qualities of such a device to create art. The work is
delivered over the WWW. Is this work accessible? Sure, for those
with the specific speech reader I worked with- or any reader if that's
what I intended. But to a user without, no. the work would appear to be
not accessible.

The graphic designer who builds commercial web pages and claims
"I'm an artist, and I don't care about the blind" is missing the point
about the purpose of the Web- to deliver content.


Nick Traenkner, design manager
Kent Infoworks: 131 Moulton Hall, Kent Ohio 44242
Notes On Hypertext Literature
Received on Friday, 20 November 1998 16:14:30 UTC

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