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RE: Debunking the need for "text-only" parallel sites

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 12:31:38 -0400 (EDT)
To: Jeff Guillaume <JeffG@PMI1.COM>
cc: "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.9905211226290.6865-100000@tux.w3.org>
Designing a site in such a way that people get the material which is suited
to them is not (in the general case) the same as making a text-only version.

For a deaf-blind user, it is likely that the average website is used in a
text-only manner. For a blind user, there is generally no reason to exclude
the use of audio content, and it is often extremely helpful (the difference
between computer-generated speech and recorded human speech is still very
substantial). For the deaf, captions or transcripts of audio material, and
visual representations of audio warnings are of critical importance. However,
good visual material is often far more helpful than text. For a person with
reading difficulties, having the graphics available as a screen-reader
renders the text is significantly diffferent from having to concentrate on
text with no other aids to comprehension.

On Fri, 21 May 1999, Jeff Guillaume wrote:

  It seems as though the argument _against_ having a text-only version is
  merely furthering my point.  Of course it makes sense to have an
  automated system that will output the appropriate model of the page to
  each user (as in Microsoft's case).  But again, that is essentially a
  "text-only" copy.  I understand that a well-designed site in valid HTML
  using WAI recommendations is supposed to be accessible to all.  But this
  is my point (not for me, because I agree with most of you, which is why
  I subscribed to this list in the first place): most Webmasters don't
  have the time nor inclination to learn what they need to learn to make
  valid, accessible Web pages.  They've been doing it for so long that
  they slip into whatever works to make the page look good quickly and
  forget the rest.
  I _do_ have the time and inclination to learn how to do it right; I
  still am NOT designing valid pages yet, because I simply have more to
  learn.  However, this is the major pitfall of the whole issue (the crux
  of the problem, in Monty Python-ese).  Webmasters think that all these
  new Web regulations will make their job harder -- and I believe it
  will!!  That's the whole point.  They *must* learn how to do it right if
  they are going to design accessible pages.  And it WILL be harder, at
  first.  I know, because I'm one of those people!  An example follows in
  my next question...
  Question #2:  And now for something completely different.
  I was going to separate this into an entirely different thread, but it
  relates to what I just said.  I have seen on numerous pages the use of a
  1-pixel by 1-pixel transparent GIF to use as a spacer (especially in
  tables, but not exclusively).  I was just reading an article on c|net's
  Builder.com about how the use of <TABLE> has taken on a whole new
  purpose, one that it wasn't designed for.  Many people are using this
  1-pixel transparent GIF to force a table to a certain width or height,
  or even just for color or design sake.  Go to http://www.voyager.net
  (search for pixel.gif in the source) for an example.
  This has been a perfect solution for designing a page to look the way
  you want (I've even used this method).  However, this is very bad for
  accessibility.  Yet another example of change that lots of Webmasters
  won't appreciate.
  Please don't misunderstand me, I am all for accessibility.  I'm just
  stating the plain fact that change is hard.  It will take a while for
  this to become successful.

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Friday, 21 May 1999 12:31:44 UTC

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