W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > June 2009

Re: Why I don't attend the weekly teleconference (Was: Input on the agenda)

From: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jun 2009 16:32:13 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: David Singer <singer@apple.com>
Cc: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>,public-html@w3.org
At 02:53 PM 6/29/2009 +0100, David Singer wrote:
>There is a clear concern on this list, supported by some data, that 
>'summary' is so polluted in practice that no-one who needs accessibility 
>would ever bother looking at its value, which means in turn that no-one 
>interested in supporting accessibility would bother putting data there 
>because their constituency won't notice it.  If this is true, summary may 
>be irrecoverably polluted.  We need to know if there is evidence to the 

I have separately asked Ian to quantify the volume of correctly marked up 
longdesc and summary content he would need to see to justify a change in 
his position. So let's leave that question aside for the moment.

Rather, I would like to engage in a logical discussion on the assertion 
that 'because a large percentage of the web's content does not use these 
attributes so as to be useful, therefore they can never be useful.'

A. I think that any site that caters to readers who appreciate having these 
features provided by these attributes would be able to advertise same to 
their community and their users could take advantage of those features. 
Feel free to correct my thinking on this, but I think that I have at least 
this much right.

B. So, while a non-sighted reader may not benefit from these features on 
sites where the markup is not useful or usable, there still exists the 
opportunity for the features to be useful to that community. Did I make any 
mistakes in getting from A to B?

So, can you agree with me that 'summary is too polluted to ever be useful' 
is actually a straw man argument?

>Now, it may well be that the alternatives proposed to date are 
>inadequate.  But the floor is open.
>I think part of the problem on the alternatives may be another unvoiced 
>tension, which is roughly as follows.
>Some people seem to feel that accessibility provisions should be 
>specifically and only targeted for accessibility -- e.g. an attribute that 
>no-one else ever sees or uses.  Others wonder, since most web authors 
>don't use accessibility provisions, whether accessibility provisions that 
>web authors don't see are unlikely to be supported by them very well, if 
>at all (and indeed, that they are highly unlikely to check how effective 
>or even correct they are).

Please allow me to try to correct your understanding on that...

What I have heard, repeatedly, from accessibility people is that they 
recognize that some of the special provisions that are provided for their 
benefit can be a burden to those who derive no benefit. Moreover, they have 
learned that it is important to find solutions to their problems that 
provide ancillary benefits to others, such as curb cuts. With respect to 
longdesc and summary, I will make the following observations.

Longdesc is intended to hold a long description of a graphic element which 
contains information sufficient to allow a non-sighted user to appreciate 
the intent or content of the graphic element. Ideally, there would be no 
more information in the long description than is discernible by a sighted 
user. Having some experience with publishing, they have acknowledged that 
placing such information in the main stream of content, or in a caption as 
has been suggested, would be more of a speed bump than a curb cut for 
sighted users. So, they have allowed as how the content of a longdesc need 
not be displayed to all users at all times, but I have never heard anybody 
suggest that a long description should not be made available to sighted users.

Summary is intended to a) a quick summary of a table, such as you or I 
might gain by simply glancing at it without examining the content closely, 
such as 'A price chart of teas and coffees' or b) a navigational aid to the 
table, such as 'This is a complex table with headers spanning several rows 
and columns. The prices of tea are presented in columns 3 and 4. The prices 
of coffee are presented in column 6, [and so on].' Again, one suspects that 
sighted users would not need or want such a summary, but I don't think that 
anybody has suggested that they should not or must not have it.

>I think this lies behind some suggestions that we make accessibility 
>'work' from design aspects that everyone can perceive and verify, so that 
>web authors are more likely to 'get it right'.  So, far from trying to 
>make accessibility invisible, it's an attempt to make it not a ghetto, but 
>a normal aspect of everyday design.  But it does lead to a situation where 
>you can no longer point and say "see, this attribute is purely for 
>accessibility, ergo, we support accessibility".

Given the WorldWide scope of the Web, it is easy to understand why one 
might think that everything that we do should be geared toward everybody on 
the planet. After all, if we are going to be egalitarian, then let's treat 
everybody equally. But that's not how I see it, nor, I suspect, is it 
really how you see it. Really, some people have special needs to which we, 
as a civilization, have a responsibility to respond.

>David Singer
>Multimedia Standards, Apple Inc.
Received on Monday, 29 June 2009 20:32:22 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Saturday, 9 October 2021 18:44:49 UTC