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Re: Author incentives for accessibility

From: Matthew Raymond <mattraymond@earthlink.net>
Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 11:24:53 -0400
Message-ID: <46585145.5000100@earthlink.net>
To: Henrik Dvergsdal <henrik.dvergsdal@hibo.no>
CC: public-html@w3.org

Henrik Dvergsdal wrote:
> 
> On 18 May 2007, at 12:51, Matthew Raymond wrote:
> 
>>   Out of curiosity, what accessibility features does OLPC have?
> 
> In itself it is more accessible in terms of cost. It is also less  
> dependent on electric power which makes it more accessible in terms  
> of external infrastructure.

   That has little to do with accessibility in the context of new markup
to support accessibility.

> But my point was that projects such as
> OLPC will provide web access to regions where the rate of people with  
> disabilities is probably higher than the current average.

  ...And lower levels of income for commercial entities on the Web to
tap into, thus less economic justification for trying to tap those
markets. In fact, you've just outright admitted that more of the
disabled are going to be poor people from third world countries than
well-to-do people from industrialized nations. Thus, economically
speaking (and NOT MORALLY SPEAKING), there is even less incentive to tap
that markup than if it were a random 10% of the population.

> This in
> turn means that the presence and importance of disabled people on the  
> web will increase in the years to come.

   Only if they can use an OLPC to get on the Web, which requires it to
have certain assistive technologies built in, hence my question about
what accessibility features it had.

>> if the law in any region places any serious accessibility burden on
>> general web sites, the market will either lobby to have the law  
>> repealed, ...
> 
> I really hope "the market" won't succeed in having accessibility  
> legislation repealed anywhere. And I don't think it will. There are  
> too many people who care about human rights.

   I think this will largely depend on the nature of the legislation. I
don't necessarily assume that, just because there's accessibility
legislation out there, the legislation is automatically well-written,
effective, or even actually beneficial to accessibility as opposed to
harmful. Thus, I think the opinions of accessibility experts should
carry more weight on this list than the text of accessibility legislation.

>> ... or they'll push the easiest technology for the developers
>> that provides legally acceptable accessibility
> 
> I hope they will then be pushing HTML5. And I think they will,  
> because it will provide superior accessibility features :-)

   My point was that they'd write their pages to satisfy the law rather
than real accessibility concerns. In fact, depending on the law, they
could meet legal requirements without meeting any real accessibility
requirements.

>>  I'm not sure what you mean by data being "equally distributed"
> 
> I mean that most of us don't have the means to generate usage  
> statistics of specific elements and attributes on the current web. If  
> someone knows a way to search for sites using attributes such as  
> "headers" in table cells or find the proportion of pages using such  
> attributes, I'd be very interested in knowing about it.

   I do wish Ian and Google would update the web stats page[1] to show
usage stats on individual elements and attributes in the HTML 4.01 spec
in addition to the existing "top 20" style stats they already have. The
fact that |headers| doesn't rank is telling, though.

   As previously mentioned elsewhere in the thread, however, we may want
to keep |headers| because there's already user agent support for it.

>> the two examples given boiled down to the following:
>>
>> 1) The 10% of the population that needs accessibility features justify
>> whatever new markup is necessary.
>>
>> 2) The law requires a minimal level of accessibility.
>>
>>    Example #1 isn't necessarily true for two reasons. First, assistive
>> technologies will evolve to support whatever the markup of the  
>> Internet
>> is. Therefore, a company or municipality may decide that the level of
>> accessibility provided is sufficient, even though an assistive
>> technology built into browsers and screen readers may do most of the
>> work.
> 
> This is a classical fallacy of people not accustomed to the ideas of  
> universal access.

   What was the fallacy? That people would find a way to weasel out of
doing more work, or that legislation to promote accessibility doesn't
necessarily promote standards? For example, look at what happened in
Massachusetts. Microsoft used accessibility concerns in an attempt to
weaken the position of ODF.

> We do not want alienate people by forcing massive  
> amounts of technology on them. We must strive to keep the need for  
> assistive technology and markup translation at a minimum. This is the  
> only way we can help people communicate and interact on an equal  
> footing.

   No arguing with that. In fact, people who need assistive technologies
still need to be able to easily write Web pages as well, so the burden
of supporting people with disabilities on the Web is shared by those who
have disabilities themselves.

>>    Example #2 doesn't really make sense, because if you need to CREATE
>> new markup in HTML5 to comply with the law, then that means the entire
>> Internet currently breaks the law.
> 
> I don't follow your logic here. Please elaborate.

   How can one mandate the use of a technology now that is subject to
change and won't be a standard until 2010?

>> Therefore, new markup probably won't
>> ENABLE compliance with the law, because the law would be repealed long
>> before the HTML5 spec would reach the recommendation stage.
> 
> Well, sometimes the real world doesn't follow HTML5 philosophy. We  
> don't usually change laws just because they're not followed by a  
> majority of the people. Typical example: tax legislation.

   Oh, I suspect that if enough people with money saw a significant
amount of that money dedicated to a legal requirements that yield a net
loss for them greater than the expense of hiring a few lobbyists, those
legal requirements would get repealed very quickly.

>> Are you suggesting that we design HTML5 around the accessibility  
>> laws of
>> every country and municipality on Earth? Because if that's the case,
>> we're going to need a lot more lawyers on this mailing list...
> 
> No. If you read my post carefully, you will see that it was all about  
> incentives. Laura claimed that good business practice, legislation,  
> policies and social responsibility will constitute incentives towards  
> creating accessible web pages in the future. Although this is not  
> easy to predict, I think she's right. And I'm absolutely convinced  
> that this claim shouldn't be flatly dismissed on grounds of current  
> practice on the web.

   I do believe there are incentives to providing accessibility, but I
don't believe that there will be critical mass for supporting specific
accessibility features unless the benefit of those features outweighs
the amount of resources needed to use those features. I don't believe
legislation will change that. In fact, poorly written legislation could
divert resources away from real accessibility to meet some arbitrary
legal requirement.

> Furthermore, if there is a chance that authors will actually care  
> about accessibility (in its own right) in the future, I think we have  
> a moral obligation to provide constructs that enable them to do so in  
> practice.

   We must also take into account that accessibility is not separate
from usability. For instance, will blind people find a particular
accessibility construct any easier to use than sighted people?


[1] http://code.google.com/webstats/2005-12/tables.html
Received on Saturday, 26 May 2007 15:25:07 GMT

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