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Re: Exclusion of Visual Readers with Low Vision form WCAG 2.0 and the 508 Revise

From: David Woolley <forums@david-woolley.me.uk>
Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2011 08:39:43 +0100
Message-ID: <4E9FD03F.3050200@david-woolley.me.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Wayne Dick wrote:

> A second dimension of typographic access is the ability to change
> style at the document element level.  The user preferences at the
> platform level do not cover the range of document elements found in
> real written expositions.  Without a template for user preferences,
> similar to style sheets or templates found in good word processor, the

Whilst word processors (and as far as the business world is concerned, 
there is really only one brand left, even if that brand really contains 
more than one product) may provide the building blocks for semantic 
markup, my experience, mainly of in house documents, is that they are 
less likely to get used than those in HTML.  This feeds through into 
PDF, as the only way that semantically valid PDF is likely to get 
produced is if the revisable form was a semantically marked up Word 
document.  I would think that the number of people who manually tag PDF 
is vanishingly small.

> Some for-profit proprietary format lack the ability to exceed the
> inadequate one-dimensional access of Draft 508 409.2.  Their user
> agents do not provide one to one access to the typography document
> elements, and nobody has attempted to approach the problem.

Taking PDF as the archetypal such product (although noting that it now 
can be made to hold the deep structure, even if the standard client 
doesn't expose it), its original selling point was that it did reproduce 
the exact design and typography of the document.  This points the 
deepest problem, which is that commercial document authors want that, 
because they believe it establishes branding, and possibly more 
important, that the presentation of the document has more influence on 
the consumers than the words that it contains.  PDF and presentational 
HTML are doing what the market want; one has to distort the market, 
possibly with legislation, to change this.

For advertising copy in particular, presentation gives the opportunity 
to put across messages that would not be allowed if clearly written and 
marked up in the text, as they make associations with the product which 
are not actually true of the product.  They can also be used to 
de-emphasise the small print.

I believe TB-L's original HTML concept actually came from a rejection of 
that market; there is an early document that says there is no place for 
colour markup.

It also addresses market wants to have locked down documents, where 
consumers cannot access the basic contents other than visually, or as 
linear text.  Although MSAA type access has been added, it does create a 
conflict in that it provides tools that make plagiarism easier.

I actually think that tagged PDF has the potential to be a much better 
semantic markup language than HTML/CSS, as it starts with the point of 
view that presentation is the most important thing, which is what the 
authoring market really wants, then adds the semantics, whereas HTML's 
stress on semantics results in authors working out ways to abuse it in 
order to achieve the presentation they want.

My concerns are that the W3C is moving increasingly to pandering to the 
market that wanted PDF (or more accurately, Flash), and has almost lost 
the semantic document origins.  HTML5 won over XHTML, because it allows 
relatively untrained authors to produce documents that look the same on 
all graphical browsers, and its ability to create dynamic documents, 
which, although not mentioned here must make it very difficult for low 
vision readers to manipulate the style adequately.

David Woolley
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Received on Thursday, 20 October 2011 07:40:22 UTC

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