W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-eo@w3.org > April to June 1998

Re: ALT outreach

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 17:12:36 -0700
Message-ID: <35997EF4.6F508549@gorge.net>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
CC: E & O <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
The proposal to use tools to assist in the education & outreach is not
made in a vacuum.  We regularly write to webmasters and say: "your site
needs repair in such and such and here's some suggestions on how to do
it."  Do we ignore the use of tools to find items that need repair?  Do
we necessarily individually contact only those we happen to come across
in our surfing?  Do we present them with the entire panoply of
guidelines, etc. when there is a glaring flaw that is so widespread that
it forms the huge bulk of a problem?  Do we continue to pretend that we
haven't yet even defined "accessible?"

Kynn: "The President, Speaker of the House, and other people don't
necessarily know what an ALT tag is."

WL:: So what?  They have all expressed in abstract terms the importance
of making the Web (and lots else besides) accessible and just as one
quotes Helen Keller or Oscar Wilde one can quote these people when
urging compliance with rules within a system ("the government") over
which the people quoted have some authority.

Kynn: "...it doesn't accomplish all that we need to say."

WL:: Duh!  What has been proposed that does?  If it's a start that can:
1) raise awareness of WAI goals; 2) get more ALT in use; 3) attract a
demand for accessible authoring tools from the largest customer, then
perhaps we might look into it as one small step for...

Dynn: "So doing this is the same as writing to them and saying 'you must
comply with ADA'.  So why not just say that?"

WL:: Because it doesn't contain examples that prove the non-compliance
nor offer a means of compliance.  However, even saying "you must comply"
would be a step well beyond an article in the Times extolling accessible
HTML in the abstract.

Kynn: "This is part of the problem with trying to rely on laws passed by
non-technical people that will be applied by non-technical people to
a technical issue.  You and I can figure out what "inaccessible" means,
but what does it mean in practice?"

WL:: Actually Section 508 was heavily influenced by "technical people"
and its application isn't a "technical" but a "political" issue.  There
was never any question that at the time Windows 3.x was being purchased
by government agencies it didn't come close to meeting the requirements
of 508.  The absence of outcry was part of the larger problem that is
clearly addressed in just about every issue of Mouth and Ragged Edge:
when it comes to disabilities, most able-bodied people still just "don't
get it" and we have to point out that the fact that there aren't
separate drinking fountains marked "colored" in the public schools and
other facilities is not an excuse for failing to make their functions

We can go on debating the niceties of what goes into the guidelines and
continue issuing press releases to raise awareness, but we must also do
something about the hundreds of millions of pages about which it is at
least conceivable that we can cause action to be taken.  Sure there can
be "bad" ALTs and sure the validators will both point to good as bad and
vice versa but so far we haven't anything on the table that has much
hope.  The vague notion of "education" as a solution in these matters is
bankrupt, else there would be no need for rules, everybody would already
be doing "the right thing".  If you don't think inaccessible code can be
effectively located then what are we here for?  If you don't think we
have isolated certain practices as constituting "inaccessible" then
please help us do so.  If we don't use some form of automation to help
in this very daunting undertaking we will surely be bailing out the
sinking ship with an eye dropper.  What I'm asking is: "How do you see
the effort as succeeding?"
Received on Tuesday, 30 June 1998 20:12:49 UTC

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