W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > wai-xtech@w3.org > August 2008

Re: Flickr and alt

From: Sam Kuper <sam.kuper@uclmail.net>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 23:23:14 +0100
Message-ID: <4126b3450808181523q14ed326bn4105a630d69cba1@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Boris Zbarsky" <bzbarsky@mit.edu>
Cc: "David Poehlman" <david.poehlman@handsontechnologeyes.com>, "W3C WAI-XTECH" <wai-xtech@w3.org>, public-html@w3.org
2008/8/18 Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@mit.edu>

> David Poehlman wrote:
>> Anyone who chooses can break the law and suffer the consequences.
> That's not a freedom.  That's a threat of violence on your part against
> said lawbreakers (pretty much by definition of lawbreaking).

Three points:

   1. I don't believe David threatened violence. The enforcement of most
   laws in countries where accessibility is a legal requirement, does not
   require the use of violence, if I am not mistaken. Please can we avoid
   upping the ante? The discussion is heated enough already.
   2. Having the (HTML5, in this case) spec require alt text for images
   would not, if I am not mistaken, automatically make the publishing of images
   without alt text against the law. Legislation is driven by government (and,
   in some countries, the law is also determined by the judiciary), not by the
   W3C. We can have the spec require alt text without making lawbreakers of
   Flickr users. It will then be - as, indeed, it already is - up to
   governments (and courts) to determine whether to make civil or criminal
   liabilities in relation to accessibility. Accordingly, Boris, if your
   concern is that you will someday find yourself prosecuted for not including
   alt text on an image, I suggest you petition your elected representatives in
   government or the judiciary. They may have a direct say in the matter some
   day. The people on this list will not, unless they are in or such a post or
   will be in the future.
   3. The freedom to break the law and suffer the consequences is the
   freedom everyone under the realm of law faces. The degree of freedom of
   behaviour permitted under those laws varies according to the laws
   themselves. We would all like, I think, a set of laws that permits us the
   behaviours we want and denies us the ones we don't. Despite the fact that we
   are not, here on this list, creating a body of law, our negotiation is
   guided by those same principles, as Boris noted above ("Your ... rights stop
   where they start infringing on mine.") Occasionally, there must be
   compromise. Boris desires the right to publish images without alt text, but
   this would infringe David's right to have any image he encounters on the web
   describe itself to him through his screen-reader, and vice-versa. Whose is
   the greater right? That is what is under discussion. I am inclined to
   David's side, for while it is merely an inconvenience for Boris to provide
   alt text, it is in many cases an *impossibility* for David to know the
   content of an image without it.

> If being conformant is too much pain, no one will be, and then what's the
> [point]?

As the level of education in web technologies improves, and the tools for
creating (X)HTML improve, the level of conformance is, I believe, gradually
increasing. Boris's question above is, therefore, misplaced. Being
conformant is not too much pain (at least, not for everyone); (some) people
are conformant; there is a point (i.e. far more images are now accessible to
visually impaired people than would have been had efforts to encourage
conformance not occurred).

Please note: if any of the above seems combative, it isn't intended to be. I
see the merits in both sides of the argument, and I'm hoping to promote a
more respectful discussion. I would be very happy indeed to see consensus
reached on this issue. That only seems likely if the participants in the
debate show a fair amount of sympathy for each others' predicaments.

Best wishes to all,

Received on Monday, 18 August 2008 22:23:56 UTC

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