Long descriptions and political cartoons

One of the still open issues with HTML5 is the lack of a verbose descriptor for an image, since the longdesc attribute was made obsolete.

The longdesc attribute used to take a URL to a separate page or page fragment that contained a long text description for a complex or highly nuanced image. Typically, the only ones made aware of the attribute were screen reader users, though some browsers, such as Opera, provided access to the long description via the the right mouse button menu.

However, longdesc was made obsolete because, supposedly, there was no justification for its continued existence.

There is no better justification for a verbose descriptor/longdesc, though, than political cartoons, as I demonstrate over at Puppies @ Burningbird.

The argument that the material describing the image can be repeated in the page just doesn’t fly. To repeat the image data textually, just before or after the image, not only detracts from the image, it lessens the impact the political cartoon intends.

At the same time, political cartoons are highly sophisticated bits of imagery, which can’t be described in a small blurb in an alt attribute. They also provide essential information, because political cartoons are created specifically to convey important arguments about ongoing political and other activities.

It’s just plain asinine to fight against such a valuable aid as longdesc, or any equivalent, with the vehemence that the WhatWG participants in the W3C HTML WG have displayed.

Well, thank goodness HTML5 no longer exists and we live in a time of a versionless, living standards HTML. Since HTML now exists along an unbroken continuum, from the beginning to infinity, and since longdesc was a valid attribute at an early point in this continuum, longdesc remains valid…now, and forever.


And now…the political cartoons

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

FiredUpMissouri has links to two different political cartoons related to the recent Proposition B legislative activity. I thought I would provide a long description for these cartoons for my friends using screen readers.

The first cartoon is from RJ Matson for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It features a dog, standing in a puddle and chained to a beat up dog house, with rain pouring down and lightning in the background. The dog is labeled “Puppy Mill Legislation”, and the dog house is labeled “The will of the voters”. The pole the dog is chained to has the word, “Repeal” on it. A bone lying on the ground by the dog has a label of “Prop B”. A sinister house is on a hill above the dog, labeled with “State Legislature”and in a bubble next to the house the words, “City Voters just don’t understand why we have to treat them like dogs out here.”

In the face of the dog, Matson has done an amazing job of capturing the look of hopelessness and despair of too many dogs in currently licensed commercial dog breeders. We’re heading into below zero temperatures this week, and I can’t stop thinking of the dogs that are forced to stay in outdoor kennels, 24×7, with no more than a little plastic igloo and maybe some straw or a blanket to keep them warm.

The second cartoon is from John Darkow in the Columbia Tribune and features a slick seeming politician in a shiny suit with the label “Missouri House”, tearing a ballot into pieces and telling an older, but savvy looking woman, “Sorry, lady…You didn’t know what you were doing when you voted for Prop B. We’ll do the thinking for ya! We’re sophisticates, you know!” The woman is labeled with “Voters”, as you would expect, and she has a leash in her hand, and a small dog at her side. On her other side, is a big doofus looking hayseed type of guy, with a suitcase and “Missouri House” print on its side. All the way to the right is a bold arrow with the word “Vote” above it.

Darkow did a good job mocking so many of the representative claims made this week that those of us who voted for Proposition B didn’t know what we were doing; that we in the urban settings can’t possibly know about dogs, as they live their lives at commercial breeders. After all, a dog at a breeder isn’t the same thing as a dog elsewhere. At least that’s what we’re told.

One of the commercial breeders, in fact one that keeps many of his dogs permanently in outdoor kennels (“They like it”, I remember him telling one reporter in an earlier interview), was quoted as saying, “Whoever wrote (Proposition B) has never raised an animal”.

Well, whoever is against Proposition B has never had a pet..