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The Root of Accessibility is Access (Was RE: alt text & punctuation - best practice?)

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 14:38:17 -0400
To: <Kurt_Mattes@bankone.com>
Cc: "W3c-Wai-Ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> > As a web page user, I would be glad not to have the ads.
> The love hate relationship of advertising.  We all hate them, unless they
> bring us information about a product or service we are interested in or
> would benefit from.

And if a significant (measurable?) portion of the intended audience cannot
access the message or information about said product or service?  What then?

> The advertising industry has a few decades
> of maturity over the Internet.  If images with text were not
> adding value to the
> advertisement, the expense to create them would cause their demise.
> Advertising is all about return on investment.

And currently, web accessibility is, for the most part, still about
education.  If we as a community can show the advertisers a better, more
accessible way of communicating their message, thus producing a better
return on the investment, should we not do so?  All to often the ads,
especially those provided via third party agencies, are simply horrid in
their implementation and delivery.  A case in point;  I am a frequent reader
of a web site produced by a large print organization who also maintain a web
version of their magazine.  Currently, the web site sports a right side
image "ad", which undoubtedly Hewlett Packard is paying a measurable dollar
for.  However, when using anything besides a mainstream visual browser, site
visitors are served up the following morsel (as viewed in Lynx):


32? [Link] [Link]


I cannot in any way understand how this would contribute to any ROI, any
time, any place.  Further, should I at least be curious to follow that
cryptic link to "see" what I might be missing, I am delivered to a second
document with the sum total of:

	[Link] [Link]

It is this type of behaviour that is still all too prevalent on the net.
This is a mainstream, high volume web site I'm talking about, not Joe's
Homepage and pictures of his cat.

> > However, if I am a bit more realistic, I realise that the
> editorial only > exists because it is paid for by the ads.
> None of the ads on the sites I develop are paid placements.
> Rather, they are designed to inform users about products and
> services offered by the
> corporation.  Yes, when customers partake in the offering, the
> corporation does profit.  Last time I checked, corporations are
> supposed to profit
> from their offerings.  The world does not run on not-for-profit companies.
> A clear majority of the visitors to these sites go for the information
> about their finances.  I do not believe this would be considered editorial
> content.  The benefit of the web for most banks is a reduction in
> cost, not
> an increase in gross revenue.  Cost reduction translates directly to fewer
> fees paid by the customer - a benefit to all.  But advertising is
> not the issue
> here, graphics with text is.

Correct.  And the point is, if you are using nothing but a "picture" on your
site to try and sell or inform your users of a service, product, or any
important concept or commercial offering, then you are short changing both
yourself and your employer/client.  Just as the code snippet I provided
above is short-changing Hewlett Packard.  Now if you, (or HP) are OK with
the marginal group of users who might not receive the "message" that is
being paid for missing out, well, that's a judgment call.  But please do not
argue that it is acceptable within the greater accessibility argument.

> > Personally, if an advertiser fails to reach his audience
> because he fails
> > to use text, It doesn't worry me.  For me, ads on web pages are for the
> > benefit of the content provider, not the audience.
> Once again, unless the ad provides information about something you are
> presently interested in or would benefit from.

"IF" they know what they are being offered... it is a rare person who knows
what they don't know.  And if you are unable to tell them, then they will
remain un-informed.

> As with the use of scripting, graphics with
> words exist and will never be eliminated.  Shouldn't the goal be
> to find a way to make them accessible?  Perhaps screen magnifiers
> should render and enlarge alt
> text.

Or perhaps, as many on this list have attempted to do, educate others on why
they *shouldn't* be doing some of the things they are currently doing.

Just because *most* people are perpetuating a problem does not make it
right.  There was a time when *most* people argued against wearing seat
belts, offering up numerous "reasons" why they shouldn't have to wear them
(which interestingly your reasoning for using image ads and client side
script echo with an uncanny similarity...).  Where they right?

You argue for maintaining essentially the status quo, others argue for
advancing the general knowledge and improved accessibility for all... and
not just for users of Adaptive Technology I might add.

Just this week, I personally experienced 2 separate instances of poorly
implemented development and reliance on client side scripting which
prevented me from accessing content and/or completing a web based task.

Issue 1 was with a "legal" music download site - www.puretracks.com - which
is now licensed to provide music downloads to Canadians.  However, my
current browser (Netscape 7.01) could not access the content of this site.
As a matter of fact, the client side script was so mangled that instead I
received the following error message:

	"Currently our website supports Internet Explorer 5.0 and above on the
	Windows operating system (Win 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP / 2003),
	and is available to Canadian residents only."

	"We value our Mac audience, however the Windows Media player for the Mac
	platform is not currently compatible with Microsoft protected audio
	Puretracks is currently working to make our service available to Mac

HUH????  I don't own a Mac.  How can a music-for-money download site get
away with this?  From my perspective they are already fighting an uphill
battle thanks to the Kazaas and Limewires of the world, and yet they shovel
out this?

	<meta content="JavaScript" name="vs_defaultClientScript">

Good luck lads...


Issue 2 was when I tried to order new cheques from my bank on-line.  After
completing the form I was invited to verify "what the cheque would look
like" by clicking on a link.  Sadly, once again this site was "optimized"
for the other browser.  Clicking on the link launched a pop-up window (yech)
which used a collection of JavaScript and cruddy code to display a Java
Applet.  But in Netscape 7.01 again (it *is* my default browser), I got
nothing... bubkas, zilch, nada.  Thanks guys.

Kurt, I respect what you are saying, that accessible sites cannot just be
about black and white text.  But by the same token, we as professionals have
a duty and responsibility to deliver; to our clients, to our intended
audience, and to any and all who come to our sites in search of "something".
And yes, this includes accessible advertising...  That's Return on

There will be those who will continue to pretend that it's OK, that client
side scripting's "benefits" out-weigh their potential problems, that
graphically based ads are acceptable to most and produce results most of the
time.  But forward thinking professionals will seek instead to push the
envelope, to try and deliver the pizzazz and punch that many have come to
expect but will do so in accessible ways.  They will think outside of the
box, try new ideas, fight for a better way, push, prod and plead.  The
choice is there for all...

John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America)
Received on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 14:38:20 UTC

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