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RE: Simplest and clearest...

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 17:50:52 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

         You haven't caught me in a bias, but in an ignorance. I truly have 
never heard of this author, and despite my protests, my college lit prof 
drilled it in me that Ernest Hemingway was the greatest novelist of the 
20th century .... Never heard of Stephen Python. But then I didn't hear of 
Ayn Rand until my degree was already yellowed, and recently read Atlas 
Shrugged, and Gravity's Rainbow has a tough battle to beat that novel ... 
but I'll write it down and take it along when I go to the library and see 
where they have to send to get a copy of it for me to read.

         So excuse my ignorance of Stephen Python. I thought you were 
talking about some author who was using the web to avoid an editor (I've 
seen a fair amount of it, and I've also seen web sites by children's 
authors who put the text of their books on their website but don't include 
the illustrations from the book for whatever reason). I'm not sure what the 
purpose of their sites are, but they don't seem very useful to anyone as 
they are.

         But my point stands. An all-text site doesn't offend until it 
asserts itself as "accessible".


At 02:15 PM 8/18/01 -0700, Charles F. Munat wrote:
>Anne Pemberton wrote:
> > 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.
>No, Anne. Exactly. It is exactly the simplest way of expressing it, whether
>you are comfortable with mathematical notation or not. Simplest does not
>have anything to do with what one is comfortable with. You are probably
>confusing it with easy. Easy means not difficult. Simple means not complex.
>They are commonly confused.
>Checkpoint 3.3 says nothing about making things easy. It says to make them
>clear, and to avoid complicating them unnecessarily. Let's get that
>straight. Making things simpler often makes them easier, but sometimes it
>does not. That was my point.
> > 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" ...
>Oops! You've given yourself away, Anne. You are biased against text. Why
>else would my examples of poetry and a polemic become "sites with *boring*
>polemics and *unpublishable* poetry" (emphasis mine)? And Thomas Pynchon's
>Gravity's Rainbow -- arguably the greatest American novel of the Twentieth
>Century -- becomes "obscure prose" in your mind. You've added value
>judgments, and those judgments expose your bias.
>As I see it, you've just disqualified yourself from being taken seriously.
>Most of the members of this group are non-partisan. We are trying to ensure
>equal treatment for all. You, on the other hand, are clearly a partisan. It
>appears that you are only concerned with making sure the guidelines address
>the issues that are important to you. What a shame.
>I've read back through the archives and I see that you've been involved in
>many heated exchanges. I suspect that the frustration of your opponents in
>those exchanges stems from your single-minded pursuit of comprehensibility
>at all costs. People with cognitive disabilities need voices in this group,
>but the disdain for text that you evince so clearly in your comments above
>does nothing to further your cause.
>I'll remake my point for the benefit of others. Suppose that Thomas Pynchon
>DID publish "Gravity's Rainbow" to the web in text-only format. Clearly, you
>would consider that he had not met the guidelines. You say that this is OK,
>"as long as he doesn't try to insist it's 'accessible'."
>But I say (pay close attention here): Not only would his work be accessible
>as is, it would meet the guidelines. I would have no problem with Pynchon's
>"Gravity's Rainbow" flying a "Meets WCAG 2.0" icon even in text-only format.
>I'll say that again as clearly as I can:
>If Pynchon published Gravity's Rainbow as-is to the web, it would:
>Gravity's Rainbow is a work of art. As such:
>1. It requires no explanation. It is what it is. You get it or you don't. I
>get some of Gravity's Rainbow, but no doubt I've missed a lot. If I asked
>Pynchon to explain, he'd be within his rights as an artist to simply smile
>and say nothing. And if he did explain, his explanation would be an
>explanation. It would not be Gravity's Rainbow.
>2. There is no visual equivalent of Gravity's Rainbow. It doesn't even work
>in translation. You might get a similar effect, the plot might be the same,
>but the power of Gravity's Rainbow depends in large part on the *way* it is
>written. Change one word and it is *no longer Gravity's Rainbow*.
>Thus Gravity's Rainbow, as with all art, IS in its clearest and simplest
>form at the time of its publication and *no equivalents are possible*.
>Now, if you wanted to create a site that "explained" Gravity's Rainbow in
>pictures, then -- assuming you had the copyright owner's permission -- that
>would be fine. And you would need to write your explanations as clearly and
>simply as is appropriate to the content you are providing. But that is not
>the same as Gravity's Rainbow, and your explanation, no matter how hard you
>tried, would never BE Gravity's Rainbow.
>We live in a society where everything is being reduced to commerce, to a
>commodity. Many people can no longer distinguish between art and commerce.
>They think that art IS commerce. It's very sad.
>Commerce should be comprehensible to everyone. Art should be art.
> >
> > 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
> > >be?
> >
> > 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?
>First, making web pages accessible does not increase the audience, it
>increases the *potential* audience. If no-one in your audience needed those
>features, then they had no effect.
>Accessibility is not in the code or the content. A site is accessible when
>everyone who has a legitimate need to use it can do so. If one legitimate
>user is locked out, then the site is not fully accessible. If I do a site in
>backwards Flemish, and every member of my audience can read and understand
>backwards Flemish, then my site is accessible.
>A site intended for the general public must be accessible to *anyone* who is
>a member of that public. The King County web site needs to be accessible
>(and comprehensible) to everyone in King County. It does not need to be
>accessible to the citizens of Uganda.
>The IRS site needs to be accessible to every American. A site that sells ski
>equipment should be accessible to everyone who might want to purchase ski
>If Thomas Pynchon publishes Gravity's Rainbow on-line following the
>guidelines but without explanation or illustration, then it is accessible.
>Art does not require explanation or illustration. But if he adds a page to
>sell copies of the book, then he is engaging in commerce and that page must
>be accessible/comprehensible to every potential purchaser of the book.
>This is a vitally important distinction, and, IMO, the source of a great
>many misunderstandings in this group and on the IG list.
>Chas. Munat

Anne Pemberton

Received on Saturday, 18 August 2001 18:05:40 UTC

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