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Censorship by laziness

From: Chris Hasser <chasser@immerse.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 08:16:09 -0800
Message-ID: <01BD257B.AD217CA0@ws143.hq.immerse.com>
To: "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charlesn@sunrise.srl.rmit.edu.au>, Mike Burks <mburks952@worldnet.att.net>
Cc: Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU>, WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Mr. McCathieNevile refers to the problem of web site inaccessibility as "censorship by laziness."  I have a different perspective.  My company is a small startup that develops novel human-computer interfaces (including a force feedback mouse).  We develop mass-market consumer devices, but are aware of (and enthusiastic about) our devices' potential for accessibility enhancement.  Despite this, an e-mail from a blind colleague reminded me recently that our web site is quite unfriendly (http://www.force-feedback.com opens with three huge graphics).  There are no easy answers here.  The "right" thing to do might be for me to go to the WAI example pages, make a list of suggested changes, and take the list to our Webmaster (who has about an hour a week to devote to the job), and wait for him to get around to making changes.  It seems that it might be challenging to make the page responsive to accessibility issues while still retaining the graphics content necessary on a commercial page.

The problem is not laziness, but one of limited resources and available attention.  That sounds like a dodge, but it is not.  We have many more worthwhile tasks than we can possibly complete.  The life or death of our company in the next year depends in large part on our judicious selection of what tasks to attend to and which ones to neglect.  We are performing triage, and triage is an unfortunately ruthless activity.  Come to think of it, most people have faced these time-management triage situations, whether at school, home, work, etc. so I'm not sure I have to put it in the small company context.  To call it laziness trivializes the situation and doesn't contribute to a solution.  

The real answer might be to change the authoring tools in ways that encourage authors to avoid unfriendly practices.  (In a similar way, but for a different purpose, we use our force-feedback authoring tools to encourage "good" force-feedback programming).  This cannot possibly be a new idea, and I apologize for repeating it! ;)  


Chris Hasser
Immersion Corp.

-----Original Message-----
From:	Charles McCathieNevile [SMTP:charlesn@sunrise.srl.rmit.edu.au]
Sent:	Monday, January 19, 1998 10:41 PM
To:	Mike Burks
Cc:	Jason White; WAI Interest Group
Subject:	Re: PICS and accessibility

This cuts to the heart of accessibility. A poorly designed graphics-based 
website is automatically censored for a blind person, who cannot see the 
I am (in principle) as strongly opposed to this kind of censorship by 
laziness as I am to censorship by direct restriction. Unfrtunately I 
think the worst (non-accesibility related) case for PICS offers both.

Providing information about a site, and using that information to select 
which site to view, is a standard procedure - it is directly analagous to 
the production of academic journals, where all things are not regarded as 

The question lies in where material can be published, and whether it can 
be at all available.

In this sense, the use of a PICS system, as Jason suggested, may 
provide the means for tyranny to enforce accessible design on the
web, rather than wait for them to do it voluntarily.

Nothing is without pitfalls - democracy as we usually understand it is 
really only the tyranny of the masses after all.

Charles McCathieNevile
Received on Tuesday, 20 January 1998 11:18:11 UTC

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