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GJR's Regrets re: March 24 teleconference

From: gregory j. rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 15:01:56 -0500 (EST)
To: "w3c-wai-au@w3.org" <w3c-wai-au@w3.org>
cc: Jutta Treviranus <jutta.treviranus@utoronto.ca>
Message-ID: <Pine.BSI.3.95.990324140053.2586F-100000@ns.hicom.net>
aloha, y'all!

due to an unexpected crisis (are there any other type?) i will not be able
to attend this afternoon's teleconference, as i need to be in NYC to chair
an emergency meeting of VICUG NYC's executive committee...

i did, however, want to come strongly down on the side of Bill's recent
post to the AU list (Subject: YAMP) -- in particular, i want to
vociferously echo the concerns he articulated about the strength of the AU
GL's commitment to ensuring that not only the markup created with
authoring tools is accessible, but that the tools themselves are
accessible...

as a blind individual who has earned his daily bread for the past 3 years
designing, constructing, and maintaining web sites _by hand_ (several of
which have nothing to do with blindness or disabilities), i know that the
days of the electronic scriptorium are numbered -- the specs which one
must master and apply in order to create pages that are both accessible
and aesthetically appealing are simply too complicated to allow a
webmaster to create and maintain web content that conforms to the WCGL,
while working under a strict deadline... the generation of accessible
content is but half of the equation -- if we do not ensure the
accessibility of the authoring tool itself, we will not only have failed
to fulfill our WG's mandate, but we will have weakened the entire Web
Accessibility Initiative, by tacitly stating that providing the means for
professionals and amateurs to create accessible web content is
sufficient...  if we do not address the question of what compromises "base
functionality" vis a vis the authoring tool itself, we are, in effect,
telling those--like myself--who are incapable of using a mouse or a
monitor that we should rely on third parties to create accessible content
_for_ us...  this is cyber-ghetto-ization of the most condescending
kind...  unless the authoring tool is capable of exposing _all_ of the
information it makes available to the quote mainstream unquote user to a
user of adaptive technology, it cannot be considered an accessible tool,
even if the output created by that tool is a paragon of universally
accessible design...  the appeal of the web for persons with disabilities
is that it enables us to speak for ourselves--both amongst ourselves and
with the world as a whole...  if we fail to include such base
functionalities as keyboard and other alternative input driven navigation
in a structured view, we are setting the stage for separate and unequal
access to the basic building blocks of cyberspace...  which is why bill's
analogy, between accessible AU tools and curb cuts is so apt--of course,
the intent behind curb cuts and entrance/exit ramps to public places was
to enable those in wheel chairs unimpeded access to places which had
hitherto been inaccessible, but the general population soon discovered
that they make life easier for anyone pushing a stroller or baby carriage,
not to mention wheeled luggage... but the parallel doesn't end there--when
the legislation mandating curb cuts and ramps was promulgated, there was a
loud hue and cry by business owners (large and small) and municipalities,
decrying the quote unwarranted unquote expense and potential economic
hardship that compliance with the law (or so they claimed) would bring... 
it was claimed that there was access to most places already--although what
was characterized as access usually meant that an individual in a
wheelchair could gain access to an inherently inaccessible building by
having someone either drag their chair backwards up the stairs or down off
and back up the curb...  what was generally overlooked was that the entire
point of curb cuts was to endow individuals with the ability to traverse
public places _themselves_...  so too with authoring tools--simply
endowing a professional or amateur webmaster with the ability to create
accessible web content is not enough--we must safeguard the inalienable
right of all persons to create content for the web, and that means
ensuring that the tools of the trade endow the quote disabled unquote user
with the same range of options and features that are available to the
quote mainstream unquote population...  it also means ensuring alternative
access methods are built into authoring tools, and, yes, that features
such as the ability to navigate and edit in a structured view are included
in the GLs...  the argument that structured views don't matter because
most of the content on today's web is unstructured is as fallacious as
arguing that curb cuts are a waste of municipal resources, simply because
one has never actually seen a person in a wheelchair utilize them...  the
accessibility of authoring tools themselves is as crucial to the WAI's
aims as is the production of accessible web content--it is not, nor should
it be considered, an either or proposition...  if we fail to equate the
accessibility of an authoring tool with the accessibility of the content
it creates, we will have failed to create a truly accessible environment
in which the physical limitations of a web author are as immaterial as the
physical limitations of a web surfer...

gregory.

  ------------------------------------------------------------------
                Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
  Camera Obscura:           http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
  VICUG NYC:          http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/vicug/index.html
  Read 'Em & Speak:   http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/books/index.html
  ------------------------------------------------------------------
Received on Wednesday, 24 March 1999 15:16:27 GMT

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