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Re: ISSUE-30 counter-proposal

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 20:05:18 +0000 (UTC)
To: Joshue O Connor <joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.64.1002161945270.2088@ps20323.dreamhostps.com>
On Tue, 16 Feb 2010, Joshue O Connor wrote:
> Ian Hickson wrote:
> > Here's a counter-proposal for ISSUE-30:
> > 
> > == Summary ==
> > 
> > The longdesc="" attribute does not improve accessibility in practice and 
> > should not be included in the language.
> > * Users that try to use longdesc="" find it doesn't work ("Who uses this 
> > kind of thing? In my experience [...] it just didn't work. There was no 
> > description.") [http://www.cfit.ie/html5_video/Longdesc_IDC.wmv].
> Ian, the above hypothesis is not entirely supported by the video footage
> from the CFIT website. [1]
> The test participant (after making the above statement) does then go 
> onto acknowledge that certain people /would/ find it useful if trying to 
> understand the layout of the periodic table for example. So there is 
> more to this footage than the above quote implies.

Yes, I don't think anyone denies that image descriptions are useful in 
principle. The above quote, however, is the only time the participant was 
responding in an unprompted fashion about how useful longdesc="" had been 
for him in practice. (As you've pointed out, this wasn't really a 
usability study, though it had a similar setup. Usability participants are 
very quick to pick up on cues from people running the study; it takes a 
great deal of skill to guide people through exercises without at any point 
biasing the participant. I understand that this wasn't your goal, and so 
this isn't in any way a criticism of this effort, which I have found very 
illuminating and helpful.)

The longdesc="" attribute, in theory, solves the problem it sets out to 
solve. The problem isn't with the theory of the attribute. The problem is 
that in practice, in deployed content, on the Web, it is unusable. This 
kind of thing happens all the time when inventing Web technologies (or 
indeed when inventing anything). Apparently good ideas are in practice not 
always as good as they appear. We have to learn from these mistakes if we 
are ever to actually improve the Web.

There's no point insisting that a solution has improved the Web if 
actually it is failing. If we insist that it improves the Web, then we're 
doing AT users a disservice, because we're preventing them from being 
exposed to potentially better solutions.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 20:05:49 UTC

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