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Re: Discussion on Change Proposal for ISSUE-66

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 16:55:43 -0800
Cc: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>, Matt May <mattmay@adobe.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-id: <BF9F8183-9FBD-4765-B12E-CBA0FEEAC3A7@apple.com>
To: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>

On Jan 21, 2010, at 4:42 PM, Shelley Powers wrote:

> I agree with you on the security issues. If there's any legitimate
> reason to violate a spec it's because of security. However, it's best
> to leave this for the spec equivalent of, "In case of fire, break
> glass".
> I think there are many paths to take to encourage UAs to increase
> accessibility. Matt's point on this issue, if I may paraphrase him, is
> that a reliance on a (non-existent) technology downplays the necessity
> for authors to hold themselves accountable. The authors may read that
> section and think to themselves, "Oh, I don't have to do anything
> about the img alt attribute, because the technology will take care of
> it for me".
> And frankly, if a UA had this kind of wizbang technology, it wouldn't
> need the HTML5 spec to tell them to use it. In fact, news of the
> capability would be plastered all over the front page of Techmeme, and
> brought up to the general exclamations of ooohs and aaahs.
> It's probably best that the spec focus on tangibles, not future
> advances in technology.

I don't think either Jonas or I are fundamentally disagreeing with Matt's point. We're just saying that it might be useful to have a fairly general statement that lets them do whatever they can to make content accessible when it is broken from an accessibility point of view.

I can see Matt's point that there's a risk of painting an overly rosy picture of the state of the art, and that this could make authors too complacent. Many others seem to agree with his point too.

I can also see Ian's point that we should allow and encourage UAs and ATs to do whatever they can in the face of content that is not accessible. And it seems to me there are sources of additional information that are completely within the reach of mainstream technology. Examples: (a) read the filename, but only if it appears to be human-readable, not a stream of random letters and numbers; (b) perform OCR on the image, OCR these days is readily available and highly accurate; (c) provide the contents of relevant EXIF tags.

I am hoping we can find a happy middle ground by giving a general allowance for use of more information when alternative text is missing, or in general in the face of broken content, without overselling its capabilities. I think important considerations for that are: (1) don't get overly specific about the type of techniques to be used, or if examples are given, make sure they are squarely within the mainstream of current technology; (2) make very clear that these are intended to be emergency repair techniques, not something for authors to rely on.

What do others think of a possible more general and moderated statement, along those lines?

Received on Friday, 22 January 2010 00:56:16 UTC

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