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Re: A brief examination of purpose.

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 19:37:38 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

                         I'll reply inline ....

At 03:12 PM 8/17/01 -0700, Charles F. Munat wrote:

>Here are a few thoughts, expressed as simply and clearly as I am able to
>express them:
>1. There is no right to accessibility per se. There is a right to
>participate in society. There is a right to have a say in those things that
>affect us. Accessibility is simply a means to these ends. I cannot
>participate if I am locked out. Let's not forget what we are really after:
>equal participation.
There are many ways to be locked out. You started out well, but lost this 
concept as you went on.

>2. There are no people with disabilities. There are only people, all of whom
>have some degree of ability/disability, usually varying widely throughout
>life and across the population. We are not concerned here with promoting the
>rights of people with disabilities. We are concerned with promoting the
>rights of people WITHOUT REGARD TO DISABILITY. There is a difference.

Yes, it is true, that accessibility cannot be accorded by disability since 
many disabilities occur concurrent with others that would lead to conflicts 
in what is needed unless the individual situation is accessed.

>3. Equal participation is not the same thing as full participation by all.
>There was a concert in town last week that I really wanted to see, but I had
>other obligations. Should the concert promoters have postponed the concert
>until I was available?

Your example is faulty, not only because it has nothing to do with the web, 
but also because your reason for being unable to participate was based on 
your choice. Web content has the luxury of being accessible at any time you 
choose, so this is a bad example.

>Full participation is neither possible nor desirable.

As long as you consider limitations under your own choice as limitations to 
"full participation" you will miss the point.

>One way to increase participation would be to create a monoculture in which
>everyone spoke the same language (with the same degree of fluency), had the
>same abilities, did the same jobs, wore the same clothes, etc. Is this
>desirable? I think not.

Unfortunately, that is what I suspect many folks think is the description 
of the deserving web users ...

>4. "Accessibility" is the ability to get access to information.
>Accessibility has nothing particularly to do with people with disabilities,
>except that they have been denied access more often than others.

The reason I participate here is because I feel that accessibility for the 
DISABLED is the goal of the guidelines. I am not terribly fond of the 
limited interpretation of "accessibility" when it doesn't cover the range 
of disability needs.

>5. "Comprehensibility" is the ability to comprehend that information once it
>has been accessed.
>6. The WCAG seems to be changing from a document concerned with
>accessibility, to one that attempts to address both accessibility and

I certainly hope so!

>7. Accessibility is largely under the control of the Web site developer.
>Comprehensibility is not.

I'm not sure who you envision the "web site developer" to be,  but I tend 
to envision it to be either the author of the content (a small site, such 
as from an author, or physicist, etc.) or the developer to be the leader of 
a team that includes the folks who purpose, plan, write and illustrate the 
content. I am probably not consider the "web site developer" as an 
independent entrepreneur who can only code the content the user provides. 
How do you describe a "web site developer"?

>I can write my code a certain way and be
>reasonably sure that it is accessible to everyone. I can also test this
>using different browsers, operating systems, etc. But the best I can do with
>regard to comprehensibility is test my content on sample groups of people.
>To really ensure that material is comprehensible, I have to interact with
>the user, just as a teacher lecturing to a group of students cannot be sure
>that they have understood the material until test time (and even then, maybe

Seems to me that if you design a site for all the technological whizzes and 
bangs but fail to test to see if it is comprehensible to your audience, you 
have achieved the grand glory of young boys cleaning their room - carefully 
sweeping the dirt into a pile, then sliding it under the rug!

>8. Making sites accessible -- in general -- eliminates duplication. By
>coding my pages properly, I can have one source of content which works well
>on many browsers (instead of the old method of making one version for
>Netscape, one for IE, and to heck with the rest). Yes, I can use server-side
>(or client-side) transformation to present multiple views of that content,
>but it's still only ONE SET OF CONTENT.

Making sites accessible tends to increase duplication rather than eliminate 
it. If I use a site map because its best for my intended audience and 
intended purpose, I must add a set of duplicate links in text to the page 
in order for it to be accessible.

>9. Making sites comprehensible -- at least as far as WCAG is concerned --
>seems to consist of making multiple versions of content. Call it the
>"shotgun" approach to comprehensibility. Worse, the skills required to
>"ensure" comprehensibility of content go beyond those of the average Web
>site developer. Creating multiple versions also involves significantly more
>time, effort, and money.

Our main manta is that accessibility and comprehensibility will increase 
the usefulness of the site, so that the "more time, effort, and money" are 
well spent in increased business for commercial sites, and increased 
participation on government sites.

>The effect of this may be to DISCOURAGE
>participation -- to lock out all but those entities with deep pockets. If
>forced to comply, commercial sites will. Non-commercial sites will simply go
>out of business.

This is a smoke-screen. No one is going out of business. They just cannot 
claim to have an accessible site. There are not now, nor anticipated, any 
laws that would require non-profits to comply with accessibility. Further, 
I really don't see it as a problem for any organization, once they focus on 
the need to make the accommodations. If the purpose of the organization is 
inclusive of those who need comprehensibility as much or more than 
technical accessibility, then the organization should be ashamed that they 
cannot figure out how to deliver!

>  This group needs to think hard about the possible
>consequences of demanding total comprehensibility before we head too far
>down that path. Equal participation demands that the needs of content
>providers be considered, too.

Equal participation also demands that the content be comprehensible if it 
is being paid for by consumer dollars or tax dollars.

>10. We are making guidelines, not laws. We cannot enforce compliance, NOR
>WOULD THAT BE DESIRABLE. The whole point of guidelines is that people can
>take 'em or leave 'em. Partial conformity is GOOD. The idea here is to
>encourage people to make sites accessible (and comprehensible) UNLESS there
>are compelling reasons to do otherwise. And there WILL BE compelling reasons
>to do otherwise.
>Some sites -- namely, government and commercial sites -- MUST be made
>accessible and as comprehensible as is reasonably possible, but that is not
>the task of our guidelines. Such regulation is properly performed by
>governments (with the consent of the governed, one would hope). Just as
>Section 508 implemented parts (but not all) of WCAG 1.0, we can look to
>government to refine accessibility regulations to address some (but not all)
>of the concerns expressed in WCAG 2.0.

I truly hope that WCAG 2.0 will convey enough concerns about illustrations 
and comprehensibility to turn the tone of the current 508 guidelines from 
sounding like they're only for the blind.

>For this reason, I am satisfied that the current document does a good job of
>promoting accessibility/comprehensibility. This group has done a remarkable
>job of finding a difficult balance between not going far enough and going
>too far.


>11. Partial compliance is better than no compliance. We should beware of
>making users think that the Guidelines are an all or nothing proposition.
>Instead, we should encourage developers to comply with as many checkpoints
>as is reasonably possible. We should acknowledge that time, money, or
>ability constraints may make full compliance unreasonable.

Yes, I agree. Let see if comprehensibility is as difficult an issue as some 

>12. The guidelines are about ACHIEVING accessibility, not about PROMOTING
>accessibility. Mixing explanation with advocacy only muddles the guidelines.
>Much of the difficulty this group has had with expressing ideas clearly
>stems from muddled motives, IMO. Stop telling people WHY they should make
>their sites accessible and focus on telling them HOW.

I agree. This will put the guidelines into the "clear and simple" language 
we want other to emulate.

>Anyone who has worked with training for adults understands this distinction.
>There is a difference between training and teaching. Kids are taught. Adults
>are trained. Teaching implies a vertical relationship with teacher on top
>and student below. Training implies a lateral transmission, with trainer and
>trainee equal.

I have taught both adults and children. Children are trained in some 
skills, and taught some information. Adults also are both trained and 
taught. Trained means the student is expected to learn the skill from 
practice. Teaching means the student is expected to absorb the fact 
(philosophy, theory, etc). You teach children and adults what they don't 
know, and you train them in skills they haven't learned.

>Some of the above are facts, some are opinions. I don't expect everyone to
>agree with me, but I hope that by elucidating these ideas, I've stimulated
>thought about our task and our motives.

We seem to be making a great deal of progress by sharing our opinions and 
sorting out what's reality from possibilities.


Anne Pemberton

Received on Friday, 17 August 2001 19:41:46 UTC

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