Why does a blind user need to know about different areas on a page?

Today, the web accessibility community have been getting frustrated with a comment Ian Hickson wrote in reply to a bug report ‘No alternative text description for video key frame’ in HTML5.

Ian Hickson is the author editor of the HTML5 specification and has been known as an advocate of web standards. For me, web standards also includes accessibility and I think this is why we are disappointed with his question:

Ian Hickson wrote:

“I’m confused. Why would you (a blind user) want to know what the poster frame is? How does it affect you?”

w3.org issue tracking service

Steve Faulkner has nailed this one on the head with his reply:

Steve Faulkner wrote:

“Vision impairment is not binary, people are not either totally without sight or have 20/20 vision, there are may gardiations. a good proportion of people who are categorised as ‘legally blind’ have some vision, but rely on a screen reader for the majority of their interaction with web content, when they see a fuzzy blobs on an image whether it be a video poster frame or on a canvas or an image, the provision of a text alternative may well be useful in helping them make sense of what those blobs are.

Also why wouldn’t a blind user want to know?”

w3.org issue tracking service

It’s an excellent response and it remains to be seen if it is sufficient argument for Ian Hickson.

2 comments on “Why does a blind user need to know about different areas on a page?”

  1. After some thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hickson’s question was him simply continuing his usual approach to editing the specification. Which is to ensure every single aspect is justified before including it.

    Discussion on accessibility is always good to have, not necessary for everyone to get so agitated.

  2. I think that there is more going on than “to ensure every single aspect is justified (…)”. When you read Ian Hickson’s responses in that bug, and his responses to accessibility requirements elsewhere, you will begin to recognize his customary way of discrediting people, and thereby causing doubts about the justification of the requirements they describe. See, for example, his use of the phrase ‘cargo-cult accessibility’ and his dismissive references to ‘the group who have labeled themselves “accessibility experts”’ (of course, he doesn’t mention names).

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