June 2002
Issue 6
Volume 7
  In This Issue
Get the Picture: What's Legal? What's Ethical?
Creating Accessible Web Sites
Grammar Trap: Can vs. May

Get the Picture: What's Legal? What's Ethical?

In response to a follow-up question from a specialist about Steve Cain's article in last month's On Target ("Can I Take Your Picture?"), I'm going to further explore the legal and ethical sides of capturing images.

The Ethical Side

You have your camera or camcorder in hand. You need to get a specific shot for your next project. But what should and shouldn't you shoot--ethically speaking.

Just what are ethical boundaries? Certainly, they are much broader than the legal ones, but because they are, the gray area is less clear.

You should never try to misrepresent anything. Showing only part of a story to portray someone in a bad light or to cover up a negative aspect of your story or institution is just not a good idea.

Always be careful about using generic images when stating something controversial. For example, don't show a recognizable photo of someone or group when stating something like, "four out of five Americans commit white collar crime." Just think how you would feel if your face were identified with that statement.

You should always be sensitive to other people's willingness to be captured on video or film. I once watched a photographer chase an Amish farmer from his field by attempting to take his photograph. This certainly is an example of cultural insensitivity.

The Legal Side

In discussing the use of a photo permission form, the specialist who contacted us stated that she uses her department's own form. You should use a form that you are comfortable with, but make sure it fully explains your purpose and the use you'll make of the images that you're taking.

The model release form mentioned in last month's On Target article clearly states, "full and free use." If you're doing an educational project, but decide you want to use the images for a promotional purpose later, make sure the person you capture on film/video knows this. And always get a parent's signature when videotaping or photographing a minor.

If you would like to obtain a model release form, contact Ag Communication or visit:


Randy Spears

Creating Accessible Web Sites

The 2000 census reported that more than 20% of the population had some sort of disability. The power of the Web is its ability to reach people, but how do you make your Web pages accessible for people with visual, auditory, and
other impairments?

Currently, there are several technologies and tactics to help you successfully reach those with disabilities. These can include software screen readers for the visually impaired and other adaptive technologies. Here are some key things you should and shouldn't do for accessible Web design.

  • For images, use "ALT" attributes. An ALT attribute basically is used to set an alternative name identifier. You want to use the ALT attribute, sometimes called "ALT tag," to create a text description for your image or graphic.
  • With multimedia elements like video or audio clips, provide captions and transcripts of the audio.
  • Use consistent page organization.
  • When using tables, try for line-by-line reading that makes sense and provides a logical context for users.
  • Use plain, easily understood language. People with cognitive disabilities can have trouble with jargon or technical terms.
  • Don't rely solely on color. This can cause significant problems for people with color blindness. Consider tactics such as bolding or enlarging text for emphasis, instead.
  • Avoid developing pages in frames. Frames make it difficult for some text readers to read the text on the page for the visually impaired.
  • There are several tools out there to help developers as they create Web pages:
  • JAWS is text reader software. You can find it at: http://www.freedomscientific.com.
  • Bobby is a Web site that allows you assess your page's accessibility. You can find it at: http://www.cast.org/bobby
  • Vischeck is an online utility that can test your graphics for colorblind viewers. You can find it at: http://www.vischeck.com.
  • If you would like more in-depth information about Web accessibility, visit: http://www.w3.org/WAI

Randy Spears

Grammar Trap: Can vs. May

These days, the distinction between "can" and "may" is something most people don't worry about.

But then there are wonderful, picky people like Byron Fagg, Washington County, who took Steve Cain to task over the title of his story in last month's On Target, "Can I Take Your Picture?"

"Can" has to do with ability.

Example: Can I take your picture? If I have a camera and film, I certainly
have the ability to do so.

"May" has to do with permission.

Example: May I take your picture? I'm asking your permission to do so.

And why did I let Steve get away with his title?

This is what I told Byron: "You are technically correct in your preference for 'may' over 'can.' But this distinction is important in only the most formal of contexts. Whatever else On Target is, it isn't formal. And whatever else Steve is, you KNOW he isn't formal!"

Needless to say, thanks to Byron Fagg for prompting this piece. Do you have a grammar, or usage, trap you'd like to see discussed? Do you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one? If so, please let me know.

Visit: http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/ontarget/grammartrap/ for past "Grammar Traps."

Laura Hoelscher

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