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Re: Call for Review: Accessibility Features of SVG (Scalable Vec tor Graphics)

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 08:21:24 -0700
Message-ID: <39AE77F4.A799AAC0@gorge.net>
To: Dave J Woolley <DJW@bts.co.uk>
CC: "'w3c-wai-eo@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
DW:: "The fundamental flaw in the document is that it assumes that the
main use of SVG will be technical diagram production by people with a
commitment to accessibility."

WL: I find it extremely difficult to share the view that this is in fact
the (or even *an*) "assumption" of the document. Please elucidate
because this would be a fatal flaw, if true - or even suspected.

DW:: "In my view, the reality is that it will be used as an alternative
to Shockwave Flash and HTML by people with no interest in or budget for
acessibility. The result will be nodes in the web which are inaccessible
except through GUIs running the full SVG runtime code, including
ECMAScript."

WL: Although I share some of this pessimism I fail to see how this is
exacerbated by SVG. A corollary is that they will be (more?) accessible
through "GUIs running the full SVG runtime code, including ECMAScript."
And this is a good thing and if EO doesn't promote all this, then what's
the alternative? Just because it *can* be misused is no reason not to
examine its accessibility benefits. 

Recently this attitude and its close cousins have received some
attention from various Working Groups. 

1. Class= in CSS: being able to create a "pseudo-element" in a style
sheet, e.g. ".warning" as a class modifying <EM> (with the intention of
having a UA generate a different-than-italic response to that tag) by
printing the contained text in red with no means of notifying a user or
her agent. This results in using presentation to convey semantics in a
way that excludes those who are unaware of "red". Does this mean not to
use class= just because it can be misused?

2. XML liberty: being able to create one's own element, say <mypix> that
has no accessibility-enhancing attributes that elucidate the content.
Does this mean XML is "bad" because it can be misused in this way?

The charter of EO includes "...educate the Web community regarding
solutions to Web accessibility." IMO the subject document falls under
that heading. SVG contains extensive improvement *over previous
technologies* to enhance accessibility. The fact that it isn't (can't
be, shouldn't be) fail-safe is of little or no concern. CSS and XML
contain the potential for abuse - so does SVG. 

The question is whether the instant document helps "reach out and
educate", not whether there are possibilities within its subject matter
(SVG itself) for making the Web even less accessible. I dispute whether
SVG is an enemy of accessibility and I even more strongly dismiss the
idea that the document being reviewed does other than support the
dissemination of the important-to-us aspects of the technology.

DW:: "Even the text in the result is likely to have an almost random
reading order...Past precedent is that almost nobody provides alt text
for images in HTML; even less are going to provide the more extensive
alternative text described here...The plain text reading order for, at
a  guess, 99% of real SVG is likely to be a total mess. It requires a
real commitment to accessibility, which I think is very rare...Only the
most sophisticated users with disabilities are going to be able to
create custom style sheets...I think the whole of SVG may be too complex
for one man development...I'd argue that SVG is a lot more
presentational than HTML...I think people are going to go straight to
Javascript and not even investigate the intrinsic alternative."

WL: Ah! the eternal optimist always putting the Pollyanna twist on
everything. 

The points David raises are almost entirely about "attitude" on the part
of (evil? uninformed?) Web designers and in the main are directed at the
huge task we face in EO and at SVG itself rather than at the document we
are reviewing. The points I've so cleverly left out of the above
out-of-context quotes deal with issues in the document. I leave those to
otherrs but I can't resist a little sunny optimism to offset my usual
dark view that mostly sides with Bro. Woolley.

What EO must continue to do is reach out and educate. To this end the
document on Accessibility Features of SVG and its companion pieces about
other technologies are indispensible tools in our arsenal (that's a less
fancy word for armamentarium!). Although the tools always need
maintenance and repair, they're all we've got and we'd best start using
them to their fullest advantage.

Of course, I could easily be wrong - maybe all this is hopeless.

--
Love.
ACCESSIBILITY IS RIGHT - NOT PRIVILEGE
Received on Thursday, 31 August 2000 11:19:47 UTC

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