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try our best to follow w3c/wai guidelines (was DC2002 and Accessibility Metadata)

From: John Foliot - bytown internet <foliot@bytowninternet.com>
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2002 08:31:03 -0400
To: "jonathan chetwynd" <jonathan@peepo.com>
Cc: "jonathan chetwynd" <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>, "W3c-Wai-Ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GKEFJJEKDDIMBHJOGLENCEIKCLAA.foliot@bytowninternet.com>

A rather long response follows:

> Our students and staff expect users to be able to click once and get
> multimedia content.
> when every site has its own browser sniffers, knows nothing of bandwidth
> or plugins and this information has to be re-evaluated on each
> occassion, our users are seriously disadvantaged. It is plain that
> ordinary users find this an unneccessary trial, and one that needs
> attention.

Perhaps, but for users who access this material using an "alternative"
access tool, what about them?  OK, so maybe people aren't going to view
Charlie Chaplin's The General on a cell phone, but does this then justify
using bad technology, or technology badly?  Or, more to the point - allow
content developers to bypass or "justify around" certain checkpoints of the
WCAG so that they can (falsely) display an icon on their site?

I can appreciate your organization seeking to make content available to a
body of users with specific needs.  I can even see the need to demand
certain minimum requirements to best access said content (see below).  What
I cannot accept is then claiming that the content is accessible - it isn't
(to all).  Access to material and Accessibility are two unique concepts,
ones which should not be confused.

> Are we not to provide a link to charlie chaplin's the general, just
> because there is no text equivalent?

Is there a compelling reason NOT to provide a synopsis of the silent film,
describing the action and story? If financial constraints is the reason,
that's fair enough.  But saying it can't be done requires a reason.  There
are millions of books not accessible to the blind - yet Project Gutenberg
(http://promo.net/pg/) seeks to address that problem... one book at a time.

> In my view if the host maintains that this is best viewed in a certain
> size window, they may well be right.

What about embedding the Multi-Media into a scalable page?  Or allowing the
content to be accessed in the stand-alone player? (WCAG does not speak
directly to launching a "Helper App" in a different or new "window")  True,
the viewing size may be optimized for a certain size (usually because of
stream rates and not because of user needs), but my experience with the
defend viewers is that - under their own steam - the user can in fact scale
the content to their personal needs.  Real, QuickTime and Windows Media
Player all allow for 200% and Full Screen.  Does the image quality degrade?
Of course, but the option exists.

> if it needs broadband, we may as well assume that is available too...

Don't assume, request.  "For maximum enjoyment, we recommend..."  Again, my
limited experience with streaming media is that there are different codecs
for different bandwidths.  Many media rich sites provide streaming media in
multiple formats and optimized for multiple stream rates.  The smut mongers
got this right a long time ago...

> provision of a text equivalent, no more meets 'accessibility standards'
> than does the provision of multi-media, and we are a long way from that.
> Our students genuinely need a 'fun' experience to motivate them, they
> wont get this from a wap phone, or a lynx browser, and yet we still do
> try our best to follow w3c/wai guidelines.

Avid participants to this list probably have figured out by now that I
review a number of sites regularly with an eye towards accessibility.  While
a certain level of confidentiality must exist, let me tell you about a site
I reviewed two weeks ago.

It is "experimental" at best, and the content authors know they have issues.
The premise is both simple and (to me) brilliant, and (IMHO) the final
outcome currently outweighs any existing problems.

Users visit the web site and access images of geographic maps.  To control
print output, they are downloaded as PDFs (they are also experimenting with
SVG, but the technology is too new to be practical - Jim and Chaas don't be
surprised to hear from them).  The intent is to print them using one of a
couple of specialized printers and paper/ink combinations.  Once printed,
the maps are then heated, causing the ink to "bubble" or "blister", creating
a texturized, 3D map.  Users are then directed to visit the site again using
a web enabled tablet device with a pressure sensitive screen, where they are
instructed to access Flash multimedia movies - again, the same maps as was
previously printed.

By overlaying the textured maps onto the tablet with the Flash map
equivalent underneath, blind users can "feel" the different map details and,
by pressing on a certain area of the map (onclick), the Flash movie "speaks"
the region's name or the geographic detail on the map.  As a self discovery
teaching tool geared toward blind school-aged children, "it rocks - big
time".  When I saw the demonstration, I was genuinely excited and thrilled,
because here was a group of developers who actually understood the power of
the web, and were seeking to push the envelope for all the right reasons.
They were "fighting the good fight", yet, clearly, they had accessibility
issues; and at so many levels.

By the end of the session, most of the glaring issues had been identified
and documented.  Can all of them be addressed right away?  No, in part
because the technology to do so does not yet exist, or is still too new.
Does this mean then that they should shelve the project and not continue to
keep trying?  Never!  Seeing what they were doing moved me... the potential
and the benefits completely outweighed any problems currently existent.  But
could they claim "compliance" as mandated by their parent organization?
(WCAG Priority 1 and 2)  Nope.  That's the honest truth, despite the
overwhelming value of the project.

So Jonathan, keep fighting your good fight.  Push the envelope, seek to
improve the lives of your students, and continue to look for ways to
increase the accessibility of your content.  But also sleep well knowing
that while you cannot display a W3C Double A icon on your site, what you do
is important and appreciated by those that can access the material.

As Always, JMHO

Received on Sunday, 15 September 2002 08:31:42 UTC

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