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RE: Textual Images vs. Styled Text, Round Three *ding*

From: Bailey, Bruce <Bruce_Bailey@ed.gov>
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 15:45:48 -0400
Message-ID: <AF196F44735ED411B93A00508BDFB1080E42DF@WDCROBEXC09>
To: "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
From the WCAG:
3.1 When an appropriate markup language exists, use markup rather than
images to convey information. [Priority 2] 
For example, use [snip] style sheets to format text and control layout.
Also, avoid using images to represent text -- use text and style sheets

I remain very perplexed as to the resistance Len's observation on this
checkpoint is facing.  I fail to see how you can argue that CSS is not "an
appropriate markup language" when style sheets are explicitly mentioned in
the checkpoint!  Am I correct that you do, in fact, acknowledge that textual
images (in navigation menus and buttons, even with ALT text) is a
significant obstacle to many folks with low vision?

More comments inline...

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kynn Bartlett [mailto:kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com]
> Sent: Friday, September 29, 2000 12:49 PM
> To: Bailey, Bruce
> Cc: 'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'
> Subject: Re: Textual Images vs. Styled Text, Round Three *ding*
> At 06:39 AM 9/29/2000 , Bailey, Bruce wrote:
>> Kynn, your post below very lucidly highlights the 
>> significant accessibility
>> problems with textual images.  Yet I read your earlier 
>> messages on this
>> thread as being something we should not worry about too much. 
> I think on at least some of those message I noted that I was
> arguing from a devil's advocacy position.
I understand that.  I also very much appreciate your introduction of
designers perspective.  I still understand that you don't believe this to be
a P2 issue -- and I think you are wrong about that!  I would very much like
to hear from other people who care about accessibility -- but who are not
about to give up their textual images.  Why not?  Kynn, I find it ironic
that you defend the practice so aggressively -- even though you have long
abandon it!

>> Kynn, what is wrong with acknowledging that the bar for 
>> level AA compliance
>> is, in fact, just as high as Len suggests?
> When the bar is "stop using something useful and instead use
> something that doesn't work", then the bar is not just "high",
> it is misplaced entirely.  That _may_ be appropriate for a
> priority 3 checkpoint, but as a priority 2 checkpoint it 
> indicates that we (WAI) have to go back and do some work to
> figure these things out better.
Your premise for debating this as a P2 item seems to be based on the
inconvenience this implies for content providers.  Since when is this a
factor for determining priority levels?  If this was the case, the WAI would
backtrack on insisting that sites work without scripting enabled (Checkpoint
6.3, a P1 item).  On the other hand, I do have to agree with you that there
is more work to do.  There are a few other P2 items (like the emphasis on
<Q> and OnFocus) which are also not supported by the current browsers.
> Unless you are arguing that "double-AA accessibility is an
> undue burden on web designers?"
Whoa!  That is a nasty thing to accuse me of saying!
> Keep in mind the implication of _that_ is that you're giving
> various companies and organizations a "free pass" out of having
> to implement any double-AA considerations, at least under US
> law as I understand it.  :)  That's what it means if you say
> "double-AA is hard and _should_ be hard to achieve" -- it means
> that you are arguing the same as the IBM consultants who
> testified in the Olympics hearing (and against Jutta).
Are you saying that AA compliance should NOT impact site design?  I am a big
fan of the "Kynn Challenge" -- but I am fairly sure that it only applies to
P1 obstacles!  AA is not "hard", but it does have some significant
implications.  For what it is worth, I think all sites everywhere should be
P1 compliant.  I think all sites that are aware of the issues, including all
government sites, should be AA.  I think disability oriented sites should
all be AAA.  I acknowledge that I am dreaming.  The 508 NPRM is mostly just
A level compliance, so that is all anyone can expect anywhere for quite a

> I don't believe that the current WCAG checkpoint disallows
> images-as-text.  I feel that as written, the requirements
> ("appropriate markup" to replace images) are not met, as current
> styled text is not sufficient to replace image text.  Therefore
> I feel that the bar for double-AA accessibility is at a correct
> level, and I resist attempts to artificially raise that bar
> based on the faulty assumption (which I have yet to be held by
> any graphic artist) that styled text _is_ a replacement for
> textual images.
I addressed this conclusion with my opening paragraph.  It's not like the
checkpoint needs to be "interpreted".  The meaning is plainly clear and
meant to be taken perfectly literally.  Why try to obfuscate it?
>> P.S.:  One other reason for avoiding textual images (and for 
>> using CSS) is that they look terrible in print.
> This is a design issue and not an accessibility issue.  If
> a designer is willing to have their graphics look poor when
> printed, hey, more power to 'em.

Agreed, but I always like to tie accessibility issues to larger concerns.
My favorite (not the one I use the most, not the one that I cite most
frequently, just the one that still makes me smile) WAI-related page of all
time is your "Selfish Reasons for Accessibility".  Hey, how about adding a
paragraph about how CSS lets one look good on screen AND in print?
Received on Tuesday, 3 October 2000 15:46:29 UTC

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