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Re: Change Proposal: ISSUE-122 Text Alternatives

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2010 20:08:38 +0000
Message-ID: <AANLkTin+c0tXmCMrC8UCGAQ-J6YxTfhYHHHFojWF26Tx@mail.gmail.com>
To: Laura Carlson <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>
Cc: HTML Accessibility Task Force <public-html-a11y@w3.org>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 1:52 AM, Laura Carlson
<laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com> wrote:
> I've drafted a Change Proposal for ISSUE-122.
> http://www.w3.org/html/wg/wiki/ChangeProposals/TextAlternativesIssue122

Thanks Laura.

> Ideas for improvement appreciated.

Some counter-arguments you might wish to address:

   * The change proposal suggests the HTML WG defers to the WCAG WG
for guidance on text alternatives because WCAG WG is chartered to
provide guidance on making content accessible to people with
disabilities. But making content accessible to people with
disabilities is not the only use of text alternatives. Other uses
include making content media-independent for all users (so that, for
example, users can browse web content from a text browser), making
content more robust (so that, for example, users see text alternatives
when resources fail to transfer over the network), facilitating
automation (e.g. allowing an automated click on a named image
control), and enabling indexing and discovery of non-text content via
search engines. WCAG WG is not chartered to provided guidance on these
other uses.

   * The change proposal implies that WGs working on language
specifications should defer to WGs chartered to provide guidance on
cross-cutting concerns like accessibility for examples on how to use
those language specifications. How should cases where multiple
cross-cutting concerns, for which different WGs have responsibility,
be handled? For example, whose role is it provide guidance when a text
alternative includes a change of language? WCAG WG or the
Internationalization Core Working Group, chartered "to help
specification writers, web masters, content authors, and others
involved in developing and implementing the Web understand the issues
involved and the techniques available with regard to supporting
international use of Web technology"
(http://www.w3.org/2006/10/i18n-recharter/core-charter)? Isn't the
group designing the markup language a good group to provide guidance
that pulls such cross-cutting concerns together for that markup

   * An important aspect of switching the responsibility for producing
guidance from HTML WG to WCAG WG is that it involves switching from an
group that is /comparatively/ open in terms of membership and
proceedings to a more closed group (people who are not working for a
W3C member can participate in HTML WG on request, most proceedings in
HTML WG operate on open mailing lists, the HTML WG has an open bug
tracker). Some participants may feel that more open groups produce
more effective guidance.

   * The change proposal suggests that text alternative provision is
"subjective". If it is /truly/ subjective then deferring to another
group cannot deliver more effective guidance, since they can only
offer yet another opinion. This is an argument for eliminating such
guidance altogether.

   * Diversity of opinions suggests issues are complicated, but does
not necessarily mean they are subjective. For example, you mention
that some users want descriptions of mood-setting images and some
don't. One can imagine markup which would allow user agents to present
such descriptions only to the users who want them. Such potential
feature changes suggest that the group designing the language should
confront these complicated issues head-on, not farm them out to a
third party.

   * The change proposal suggests that tasking WCAG WG with producing
guidance "Helps in the goal of modularizing W3C documents", citing an
email from Tim which in turn cites a blog post by Tim
(http://www.w3.org/QA/2008/01/modularity). In that post, Tim explains
that the basic benefit of modularization is "that one module can
evolve or be replaced without affecting the others." But guidance
about usage of features cannot be safely evolved or replaced without
affecting the design of features, and vice versa. Splitting these
tasks between different working groups does not provide effective

   * Disagreements about guidance for text alternatives reflect
disagreements about what HTML features should be included for
providing text alternatives (e.g. should we include "longdesc"?) about
the basic semantics of features of those features (does "alt"
represent a short text alternative or a full text substitute?), at
least as much as disagremeents about what constitutes a good text
alternatives. Conforming features and HTML semantics are inalienable
concerns of the HTML WG.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Monday, 8 November 2010 20:09:12 UTC

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