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Re: Mandatory and Important

From: Matt Morgan-May <mattmay@adobe.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 18:17:36 -0700
To: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
CC: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>, <wai-liaison@w3.org>
Message-ID: <C4D361C0.D1DA%mattmay@adobe.com>

Of all the questions listed below, only the Joyce example is an actual
violation of WCAG, and that's at AAA. The rest of the examples are not
directly applicable, since making something like, say, a bookstore directly
accessible would be physically impossible. Even ignoring the economics, the
sheer volume difference between print and Braille is massive. (The last
Harry Potter book, in Braille, is 1100 pages in 10 volumes, and takes up 15
inches of shelf space.)

The thing is, we're not in physical space, and so we're not subject to those
constraints. If Scholastic wanted to distribute Harry Potter in HTML (or
PDF!), they could, and it'd work just fine in Braille or text-to-speech.
That's what's so liberating for people with disabilities on the web: they
don't need you to build a $5k ramp or a $40k elevator or an $80k Braille
printing run to make your stuff accessible to them. The accommodations that
are necessary are much more economically reasonable. They're still non-zero,
but that's life.

As for equivalency, I will say this. Every single time a message is
interpreted from sensory data to text, information is lost. A Pitchfork
review is a horrible introduction to the White Stripes. The Wine Advocate
tastes like paper. Every text equivalent is a degradation. Even the act of
perceiving sensory data is a degradation. We know. We've talked about this
in WCAG ad nauseam. If I had a nickel for every time the Mona Lisa was
discussed in a WCAG meeting, I could afford to buy it myself.

This is not a problem we expect the HTML WG, or anyone, to solve.  All that
is necessary is for someone who knows the message they're trying to
communicate, to do so textually, as completely as is reasonable. WCAG
defines what is necessary and sufficient for web content accessibility. I
think we're only asking for HTML to help us out with the "necessary" part.


On 8/21/08 7:06 AM, "James Graham" <jg307@cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> Laura Carlson wrote:
>> As Gez Lemon has said before "Lowering conformance requirements so
>> that authors who cannot be bothered to provide alternative text, or
>> allowing broken authoring tools to be considered compliant, obviously
>> goes a long way from solving the fundamental problem here - that of
>> providing content that is accessible by users with disabilities." [4]
>> This type solution may help to address conformance requirements and
>> mandatory alt text.
> I am not clear on how this kind of rhetoric relates to the general
> accessibility 
> burden we expect for the creation and distribution of artistic works. Consider
> some examples:
> An artist creates a painting. Is it the responsibility of the artist to create
> a 
> non-visual alternative work for those who cannot perceive the original? Does
> it 
> make a difference if it is displayed in public? What if it is on a cafe wall?
> Does a gallery who make money from exhibiting the work have to ensure that a
> non-visual alternative to the work is available? This is different from
> ensuring 
> that blind people are given access to the gallery which, as I understand it,
> they are legally (and imho morally) obliged to do.
> A bookstore distributes works of literature. Must the bookstore ensure that
> the 
> books are available in multiple media to cater for disabilities (evidently
> not)? 
> Must the publisher? What about catering for people with learning difficulties?
> Should Project Gutenburg be considered non-conforming to HTML for distributing
> James Joyce's Ulysses, since Ulysses willfully fails all of WCAG 2 section 3.1
> [1] by going out of its way to be obtuse and hard to grasp?
> A band releases their home-made music video on to YouTube. What
> responsibilities 
> do they have in making alternate versions of the material available to the
> deaf? 
> What would constitute an acceptable alternative even if they did want to do
> this?
> A group of people with a particular type of synesthesia put together a website
> with animations designed to invoke a response amongst people with the same
> form 
> of synesthesia. Should they feel obliged to put a textual description of the
> response in order to provide a limited form of access to that content to
> people 
> without the same cognitive function?
> Obviously I have an opinion here but these questions are not rhetorical. I may
> well be wrong :)
> My opinion is that there is a responsibility for those providing services to
> provide universal access to those services; to take the much-overused example
> of 
> flickr I believe that they should ensure that their website can be navigated
> blind; that blind users are able to upload photos, make comments, and so on,
> to 
> the same extent that a sighted user can. I believe this is the focus of most
> accessibility legislation although I admit I know little about this area. On
> the 
> other hand I see little precedent for requiring people who publish work in a
> single media, or work that is for some other reason inaccessible to part of
> the 
> population, to make an alternate version of that work which is accessible to
> some of the people who cannot access the primary version. So flickr should not
> be required to make people provide text-alternatives for their photographs. My
> feeling is that in general (i.e. not just in the case of flickr) such a
> requirement would have a chilling effect on free speech and on creative arts.
> For this reason, I also feel it is inappropriate for HTML to point at WCAG for
> any of its normative requirements. Whilst I agree that people should strive to
> create accessible HTML documents where possible, and should be particularly
> careful do do so when they are providing services, HTML should also meet the
> needs of authors who are producing single-media content and content that is
> otherwise inaccessible per WCAG (cf the Ulysses example above). Trying to
> address these additional cases in WCAG can only make that document longer and
> harder to understand than it is already, so detracting from its primary focus
> in 
> explaining how to achieve accessibility. Instead of stuffing a small subset of
> WCAG checkpoints into HTML conformance requirements, I suggest that we promote
> the idea that a) HTML conformance does not ensure accessibility and b) WCAG is
> the go-to place for information on how to make HTML documents accessible.
> Note that I am not advocating ignoring accessibility in the design of HTML.
> Clearly we need to consider accessibility needs as part of the design for
> things 
> like tables, images and so on. Indeed good design where accessibility comes
> for 
> free in the course of the author achieving her primary goal is likely to be
> more 
> effective at improving accessibility than many of the features that require
> special accessibility-related additions.
> [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/#understandable
Received on Friday, 22 August 2008 01:18:28 UTC

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