That is why they do it in SuperCollider

So this is why they use SuperCollider for sonification, I think. First a lot of things like metronome beats are just one line of code. And second how do you record something written in WebAudioAPI? If I did this in SC that would be one line of code (I have already forgotten what that one line was but I remember it was just one line), but since I did this in WebAudioAPI I’m still scratching my head. And I don’t even have a lot of time left. I basically have to get up at 5am tomorrow, which means I have to sleep at 9pm or something today…

Webfonts and SEO, revisited

Went to see Extensis’ presentation on web fonts, and the two-year-old SEO argument was being regurgitated. As I mentioned two years ago in another blog post, if people had done images correctly (i.e., if they actually followed W3C’s HTML and accessibility recommendations), if would have been a miracle if web fonts had any so-called “SEO benefits.” But anyway, Thomas Phinney from Extensis confirmed my suspicions: There’s currently no way to do CJK web fonts. Web fonts, as it stands, remain just a “gesture” in the larger context. And yes, I totally agree that the death of “web safe fonts” is Microsoft’s fault.

How should we add alternative text for diagrams?

I’ve mentioned this before to people but never wrote it down: How should we even begin to handle graphs and diagrams? What is the “alt text” for a graph, a schematic, floor plan, infographic, or UML diagram? Just consider this diagram: (A UML diagram used for the discussion) How should we even describe this as an “alt text”? (Let’s ignore text browser users for the moment.) Describing the picture certainly wouldn’t work; what matters are not the visual elements themselves, but their relationships to each other. Even worse: Imagine this being exported into PDF (or SVG, or EPS), then embedded into InDesign. Suppose the InDesign file is going to ultimately end up as an accessible PDF. But the text in the diagram is going to be a jumbled mess. So what accessibility are we talking about? Are we deluding ourselves? This has serious implications: Imagine, for example, a piece of online instructional material full of such diagrams. Under the AODA organizations are supposed to be able to supply this in an “accessible format.” What does it even mean for this to be accessible?

UEB and Unicode, revisited

While working on my term paper, I suddenly realized that some differences between UEB and Unicode that I thought were there aren’t really there. Mind you, that still doesn’t mean Unicode can be reliably converted into UEB: I still don’t think the process is reliable. There still are discrepancies in semantics, and there still are cases where human judgement (or very good artificial intelligence) is required. Sure, the specific example of gross incompatibility that I thought I observed isn’t really there; but, as far as I can tell, there still are incompatibilities.

First impressions of automated checkers for WCAG 2.0 AA

A week ago I finished my assignment on automated checkers for WCAG 2.0 AA. I asked it to check the home page of another blog of mine and it spewed out 223 “potential problems.” (A classmate told me she got more than a thousand.) I drudgingly went through the list and at the end what did I find? Three legitimate concerns. Yes, three out of 223 were all I could find. That’s an accuracy of just slightly over 1%. Granted, from an AI point of view I know that we don’t talk about accuracy but rather about recall and precision, and a lot of the bogus warnings do concern deep AI problems such as how human language can be understood. Or impossible-to-solve ones like guessing the author’s intent. That said, some of those warnings—especially those related to standard third-party Javascript library API calls, standard icons, or, incredibly, non-breaking spaces—are just incredulous. I’m not hating the checker or have anything against it per se, but for these checkers to be taken seriously they really have to get better. An accuracy of 1% is not going to work.

WCAG first impressions

Since some of us are talking about aChecker, I threw my own site at it and it spewed out a slew of complaints. I didn’t assume my site was flawless (in fact I knew it had many problems), but the amount of complaints it threw at me was just too much.

I mean, some of what it spew back at me was justified. (For example, I didn’t know WCAG requires the lang attribute to be tagged onto the HTML element instead of the BODY element—not that the requirement made any sense.) But some of it was just bogus. Contrast problems for non-textual elements that happens to be text? With the advent of webfonts, textual data can be anything (especially when people have started talking about using specialized dingbat fonts as a replacement for graphics). You just can’t infer that a piece of textual data will be actual text, especially when the glyphs concerned are obviously symbols.

The problem is that these requirements are divorced from both the context of what the text is and how the text is actually used.

So I wonder: Will the mandatory adoption of WCAG actually produce the opposite effect of what is intended? Will people, out of the requirement (as opposed to the desire) to be compliant with the WCAG, forego simple text for graphics, throwing the web back to where it was 10 years ago when heavy graphics ruled? I don’t want to believe in this, but if WCAG 2.0 AA is going to become mandatory, I think this will be a very real possibility.

Unexpected discovery on Big Welcome Day

I actually talked about this in my study plan: my lack of knowledge about AODA’s effects on non-digital design. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was checking out the stuff that I got from RGD Ontario’s booth and found Access Ability : A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design. Obviously, three weeks ago I already found Inclusive Design : A Universal Need in the OCAD library. However, the primary focus of that book was interior design and architecture, fields that I wouldn’t be qualified to even touch. So I was definitely very happy to have found something from none other than RGD Ontario. For one, this means there is something about graphic design to talk about; and secondly, it means that this something is not some obscure, fringe thing that has no consequence—in other words, I am not crazy or wasting my time trying to steer my direction away from digital technologies…
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