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From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 07:48:14 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-eo@w3.org
The urge to reply usefully to the oft-put question "just how many people 
with disabilities are there?" must be examined carefully IMO.

Although the asker may not be a bigot, the root of the query is based in 
polluted ground. It seeks to make arbitrary divisions among us based on 
such pointless distinctions as whether one has retinae or can operate a mouse.

Compared to Mozart, we're all deaf and compared to Einstein we are rather 
cognitively-impaired. This is not to say that everyone should be collecting 
a disability check from the welfare state but that trying to 
compartmentalize humans on the basis of some arbitrary standards of 
"ability" is as useless as dividing us into groups based on skin 
pigmentation percentages or age/gender definitions.

Accessibility is for everyone. Disability (even in the popular sense) will 
strike us all if we live long enough. Gregg Vanderheiden has a presentation 
filled with statistics about how sensory capacities vary with age, etc. and 
ends with the question "oh, and how are *you* feeling today?" the point of 
which is that the true statistic for "how many disabled folks are there?" 
is 100%.

In our field there is an interesting phenomenon emerging as the Web's 
penetration into the fabric of everyday life accelerates - inability to 
cope with it is itself disabling or as Al Gilman says:

"Our job is to make Web technology actually work for people with 
disabilities. Since if it doesn't work for someone previously not thought 
to have a disability, this means that in today's world they are dis-abled 
from using the web, and are disabled. So it means make it work for 
everybody. All people. Full stop."

We are still asked the question but instead of caving in with an answer 
like "half the planet" or "somewhere around 20%" we *MUST* utilize the 
"Education" part of "Education and Outreach" and turn it around with stuff 
like "do you have to seek help programming your VCR?" or...

The demographics being sought are divisive/demeaning/disjoint insofar as 
"everyone, everything connected" is concerned. The question (frequently 
seeking a loophole for prejudice) "after all, how many blind people are 
going to want to look at a site about...?" will still be asked but to 
dignify it with an answer of "oh, only about a million in the U.S. and ten 
million in China", etc. is not very nice.

My .02 Euros worth.

Received on Saturday, 18 August 2001 10:46:34 UTC

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