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Re: Comments on gl Abstract

From: <nir.dagan@econ.upf.es>
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 12:16:47 +0200
Message-Id: <H0000e2200c86d90@MHS>
TO: danield@w3.org
CC: chisholm@trace.wisc.edu, paul.adelson@citicorp.com, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Three points:

HTML has "built-in" accesibility
I think that one of the reasons we get the responses 
that Paul reported is that people think that writing HTML
is naturally not accessible and one has to make an effort 
in writing accessible pages. The converse should be emphasized:

HTML is designed with the flexibility to be formatted in many
different platforms, that is, it has "built-in" accessibility.
Non-accessibile pages are a result of giving up this flexibility
by designing pages by concentrating on typographical considerations,
mostly borrowed from the print industry.

Writing accessible pages is not more costly, it simply requires a 
different approach: concentrating on the meaning and structure
rather than on typographical considerations.

Einstein quote (see below)
Another point is that most people approach accessibility
or cross platform issues with a "practical approach" of testing
the page on many platforms. Within this view a requirement
that a website is functional on many platforms implies
a huge increase in testing costs. One may say that costs 
are proportional to the number of browsers that a page should 
"work" on.

The "theoretical approach" suggests that writing according 
to principles and conducting formal tests such as validation 
accounts for the major part of cross platform issues.   

Thus in order not to scare away people from the guidelines,
they should not start with stating that the pages should work 
on 5000 platforms, but instead state that they should be 
written with a small set of principles in mind. Following 
these principles will *result* in improving preformance 
in many platforms. 

From the point of view of an author of pages who takes 
these principles axiomatically this improvement in preformance
is a consequence rather than an intentional (costly) strategy.

Hypertext not just text
Concerning "text is accessible", it may be noted that Hypertext 
is accessible. I have seen many websites that have a text only version
that hardly uses HTML. E.g., writing lists as paragraphs with a line break
for every new item instead of using a proper list; or not using headings 
(in fear that they appear in a larger size in a graphical browser?). 

Nir Dagan.

"There is nothing quite so practical as a good theory." 
-- A. Einstein

> Thanks Paul for this information.
> What this survey tells me is that we need to be *very* specific about
> the one thing that we - experts of HTML accessibility - take for
> Most people do not understand that information that is available in
> textual form (i.e. as a string of characters) can be presented to the
> user visually, aurally or in braille without additional development
> cost for the author.
> Of course we need to explain the idea of separating presentation from
> structure/content and the need for adding textual description to
> "richer" media like image, video, etc, but the number one rule must be
> stated clearly: Text is King.
Received on Tuesday, 20 October 1998 06:07:23 UTC

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