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Re: A new iconography? (was:How to convince businesses to be accessible...)

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 08:12:21 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: David Woolley <david.woolley@bts.co.uk>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 12:51 AM 10/16/00 +0100, David Woolley wrote:
>I don't think that anyone is objecting to their use where appropriate,
>and as far as I can see they are almost never used appropriately on
>commercial web sites (the object of most advertising is actually not
>to convey information - real information often puts buyers off or reduces
>the differentiation from other products - there are exceptions, but they
>are rare).

According to a friend in marketing, the purpose of advertising is to convey
information. According to him, there is enough return from web adversiting
to keep it a strong option for those trying to build business on the web. 

>I don't think the guidelines say anything against this, and I'd say
>it was also true of a general audience.  For example, I was curious 
>about the hand signals used to guide a helicopter in to land, and
>found a web site that gives them.  It uses both text and graphics.  I
>don't think that either would be completely adequate without the other,
>although a blind person (but you need sight to guide one in!) could 
>probably have succeeded with the text more than a non-reader could have
>coped with just the graphics.  A movie with voice over would have worked
>better, but would have made load time impossibly long (the page takes
>a long time as it is) and it probably wouldn't have heen done at all 
>because the production cost for animation would be much more than
>rough drawings and text.

For a site whose purpose is to convey this information neither download
time nor production cost are important. Presenting the information is. 

>The objections are to the use of word art when plain text would carry
>the same information, and to the use of large quantities of multimedia
>for atmosphere, when that multimedia, more often than not, fails because
>of bandwidth constraints.

Fails? fails what? Such sites are very popular, and more come online every

  It's getting close to commercial Christmas, and
>some people are actually intensely irritated by "Have yourself a merry
>merry Christmas" playing in every store; the graphics in commercial web
>sites normally serve the same purpose as this sort of Muzak.

Some people are irritated by muzak in the stores, others prefer it to the
more irritating noises of a store without a sound system. The fact that
some people don't like music shouldn't lead to the conclusion that music is
bad is mis-used. Same with graphics. Curmudgeonry shouldn't be an issue in
deciding what is "accessible" and what isn't. I fail to see any reason not
to use word art if the words it contains are put in an alt tag. 

>identify concepts)++.  Interestingly, the normal response of adults from
>non-CJK language environments is to assume that icons rather than 
>alphabetic characters are impossibly difficult to learn.

That seems an odd statement when you consider that commercial software
typically includes icons for fast use of the commands, and that many people
use these icons regularly. If adults found icons "impossibly difficult to
learn", they wouldn't have evolved from the word commands that were used
before GUI came about. In the training software we are using for Office
software with teachers, the training starts with use of the icons before
going into the features available only with the menus. 

>However, none of this helps someone whose not prepared/able to learn
>how to make a call on a mobile phone.

I'm not sure why it is supposed to. I cannot see any merit in using a cell
phone for education. On the other hand, the graphics and multi-media that a
cell phone can't handle are the very features that make a site
educationally useful.

>Used appropriately yes; the objection is not to that but to use where it is
>of no benefit to the user.

I'm sure that your judgement of what is "no benefit to the users" and mine
would point to different features. Does that mean we should make the
choices for others? The purpose of the guidelines isn't to decide what
people can and cannot have on the web, but the allow them to choose how to
receive the information (etc.) that is provided. 
It really doesn't matter if one person gets the text as a recognizable
trademark and another the alt tag, if everyone gets what they

All that the accessibility
>guidelines ask for in the case of appropriate use is a parallel text version.

Then why the problem over word art. If the alt tag is there, it seems there
is no issue. Whether or not it is "appropriate use" is decided by the user.
The user can always leave a page if it isn't to their liking!


Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Monday, 16 October 2000 07:25:20 UTC

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