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RE: Simplest and clearest...

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 20:16:10 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
NOTE: The mood indication is not correct. I don't know how to change it. 
Please excuse. I am quite friendly, cheerful, and happily helpful....


         I like your comments, although we are in disagreement. Let's take 
another whack at it!

At 03:11 PM 8/17/01 -0700, Charles F. Munat wrote:
>Anne Pemberton wrote:
>"We need to ask the author to write clearly and simple as appropriate to the
>content, as is appropriate for the widest audience, and as is appropriate to
>the purpose of the site."
>I reply:
>I think this is where we differ in our beliefs about accessibility.
>I believe that:
>1. Writing clearly is always a good idea. But you might be surprised by what
>is clear. For example, the clearest and simplest expression of Einstein's
>Theory of Relativity is e = mc2, where e is energy, m is the mass at
>velocity v, and c2 is the speed of light squared. Simple, exact, and clear.
>But I doubt that anyone on this list (myself included) understands even a
>small portion of the implications of this simple equation.

Well, not exactly. The mathematical equation is but one way of expressing 
Einstein's theory, it is only "the simplest" if you are comfortable with 
mathematical notation. Otherwise: Energy is expressed as a value devised by 
dividing the mass at  velocity by a constant "the speed of light, squared" 
... Similar to: area of a circle is expressed as a value devised by 
dividing the radius of the circle by the constant "pi" ... and we could 
quibble over each word in each simple statement to hone it down a word or 
three ....

If a particular page author believes that mathematical notation is the 
simplest and clearest language for his widest intended audience and his 
purpose in the site,  then he will use that .... and he will be right, and 
students will flock to his site, or he'll be wrong and his stats will be 
dismal. He'll re-read the guidelines about clear and simple language and 
will realize he missed the boat ....

>2. Keeping the language simple is often a good idea, but not always. This is
>where the proviso "as appropriate to the content" comes in. If I am writing
>poetry and publishing it on-line, should I have to use simple terms? What if
>I am writing a polemic against capitalism? If Thomas Pynchon had published
>"Gravity's Rainbow" on line, should he have had to rewrite it so that a
>third-grade student could understand it? Should he have had to hire an
>artist to illustrate it?

Again, sites with boring polemics and unpublishable poetry are under no 
requirement to be accessible, so  there would be no problem with Thomas 
Pynchon publishing obscure prose, as long as he doesn't try to insist it's 
"accessible" ...

3. There is no need to write for the widest audience. What gives us or
>anyone else the right to tell Web site developers who their audience should

Excuse me, but I think this is the point many have been making for a long 
time, that by adding accessibility to web pages it increases the audience 
beyond what they initially presumed. My intended audience for my web pages 
is the 45-8 year olds who use my lab. Why should I worry about making the 
pages "accessible" in any feature or fashion that is not needed by my kids? 
The ONLY reason is because I "may" have a wider audience in parent and 
taxpayers who are curious what the kids are doing in school. Why should I 
bother to include text links with the site map if all of my intended users 
are sighted? Why should I include keywords that could lead other educators 
to my site, if they are of no benefit to my intended audience?

>4. Al Gilman has already explained quite convincingly why we shouldn't
>include the purpose of the site. I'll leave it to him to respond to that.
>I like the checkpoint the way it is.

I think we still have work to do on this checkpoint.


Anne Pemberton

Received on Friday, 17 August 2001 20:20:18 UTC

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