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RE: Disability Type Analysis of WCAG 1.0

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2001 12:47:41 -0700
To: "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
> All I did was quantify that fact into numbers, and publish it.  And this
> scares you for some reason.

Scares is your word. I would say that it worries me. As for my motives,
instead of making wild suggestions as to my desire to suppress information,
why don't you just ask me? I think I've been pretty clear about the dangers
of these sorts of "studies" and why they bother me. Since I've been saying
from the start that this is "bad science" it seems odd that you would
suggest that I am against science -- that I would try to suppress an
experiment. It does make some sense if one presumes that your intent was to
shift the focus away from the potential negative effects of this sort of
study and on to an examination of my motives.

My motives are simple. I want us to concentrate on getting these
long-overdue guidelines out. I want them to be the best guidelines we can
produce. I want to make sure that they address every accessibility need. And
I want to be sure that they are fair to everyone.

Now that you've brought up motives, maybe we can examine yours as well.

When a group of scientists decides to study certain phenomena, they look at
the available information (as you have done) and then formulate hypotheses.
Then they create experiments to test these hypotheses after which they
publish their results in journals for peer review. Finally, having passed
peer review, the results are published for the general public.

Note that the publishing of results comes *after* the experiments and peer
review. The results of the informal surveys that produced the hypotheses are
not usually published because they might lead to false conclusions. Often
people see only the initial survey and never get the final results. This
creates all sorts of false ideas and sometimes can even negate the results
of the actual experiments -- people insist on believing their first
impressions instead of the published results (sometimes because they think
that the published results are a "cover-up").

When information is published early in this process (before the experiments
have been done and the results peer reviewed), it is usually for political
reasons. Someone is trying to put pressure on the scientists, or on
government, to act in a certain way. But this has nothing to do with finding
the truth, it has to do with power -- who gets to decide. And often it has a
very negative effect on the efforts to find the truth.

Had you published your data to the GL list, you wouldn't have gotten nearly
as forceful a reaction from me. But you didn't. You published your
pre-experiment data to the *IG* list. Effectively, you "went public" with
the data before it had been tested and peer reviewed. You are not an
objective third party, you are a member of this group. Was your intent to
create political pressure on the group to do something that you wanted done?
If not, why not just post your results to the GL list? Whenever someone goes
outside the group to publish something, my first reaction is to think that
it was a political move.

Since we're getting motives out in the open, let's get them all out. I've
explained mine; how about if you explain yours? It would go a long way
towards assuaging my "fears."

Chas. Munat

> At 3:48 PM -0700 2001/8/24, Charles F. Munat wrote:
> >Expect more of this. With cross-postings, this whole thread may open up a
> >can of worms. Will we eventually be pressured to "close the
> guideline gap"?
> >Will groups demand that they have equal guideline representation?
> But, you see, the numbers are out there anyway.  Anyone reading WCAG
> 1.0 will pretty clearly see that most of the document is about access
> by people who are blind.
> Now, the _hypothesis_ is that this affects how they view the guidelines.
> As I haven't even _done_ that experiment yet, you are pretty much blasting
> as "bad science" some observational data meant to support an experiment
> which hasn't even been done yet.
> Is it correct to also say that you wouldn't WANT such an experiment to
> be done?  Is that true also?  Your comments above seem to imply that
> even _if_ WCAG 1.0's organization leads to false impressions in readers,
> this kind of "information" shouldn't be distributed -- suppressed, even,
> Chas? -- because we don't like the results that we get or how people
> will interpret them.
> That's "good science"?
> >I hope not. But it gives one pause to think of where this all could lead:
> >lots of wasted hours having to explain over and over again why
> the number of
> >checkpoints does NOT reflect the degree to which a particular
> group has been
> >served.
> Yeah, how dare someone interpret information in a way we don't want them
> to!  In the name of "science" let's squash all discussion of what these
> easily observable numbers really mean.
> --Kynn
> --
> Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
> Technical Developer Liaison
> Reef North America
> Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
> ________________________________________
> ________________________________________
> http://www.reef.com
Received on Saturday, 25 August 2001 15:45:21 UTC

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