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Re: Attitude Adjustment Plea

From: Chris Maden <crism@ora.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 17:35:14 -0500
Message-Id: <199801212235.RAA12331@geode.ora.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
[William Loughborough]
> WL:: We frequently find ourselves taking an almost apologetic stance
> concerning the *REQUIREMENT* for accessibility in web sites.  The
> "justification" that Chuck speaks of is a case in point.  Our
> attitude must not be that "it would sure be nice and the right thing
> to do if you would just take the extra time to..." but "you are
> required to make anything you publish on the web accessible and
> here's what that means."  This is a fact ethically, morally and more
> to the point legally.  We are not begging for accessibility if they
> can find the time or justification for it, we are pointing out that
> this accessibility is *required* just as much as it is required that
> the document will transmit under http: and all that other alphabet
> stuff.  Our "education and outreach" must come from the point of
> view that we are showing how best to comply with a requirement, not
> to point out what a nice thing they can do for some poor
> unfortunate!  Punting (which means kicking somebody off the
> "information highway") is *NOT AN OPTION*.  Instead of hat in hand
> we are trying to save authors from breaking the law, as well as
> being sociopaths.

This approach will get us exactly nowhere.  The Web is in a constant
state of flux, and asking the government to patrol it is absurd.
Moreover, the majority of Web sites are small ones that wouldn't be
worth the effort to prosecute anyway.

What we need is *easy* accessibility.  HTML was not terribly
well-designed, so there is some amount of extra work necessary (like
ALT attributes) to make a Web site accessible.  Now that (in theory)
ALT tags are required for legal HTML, accessibility is automagic (sort
of) with valid HTML.  But few care about valid HTML, and no-brainer
ALT text can be provided (like "picture" or "get a real browser").

I hope to be able to ensure that documents created in XML and styled
with XSL will have built-in accessibility; that is, for every visual
object that a sighted designer creates, there is (or can be) a well-
defined accessible analog in Braille and speech.  One example of this
would be requiring an alt text characteristic on graphic flow
objects.

This argument is akin to the "requirement" for labeling different
people in e-mail with initials.  Rather than trying to change millions
of Internet users' habits, why not adapt speech technology to
recognize decades-old conventions of nested indent levels?  If Emacs
can figure it out when wrapping a paragraph, it shouldn't be hard for
a screen-reader.

Instituting more requirements will lead to more documents that break
the requirements.  Institute mappings and heuristics instead - make
existing pages accessible through new technology, don't force existing
pages to change.

-Chris
-- 
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Received on Wednesday, 21 January 1998 17:30:19 GMT

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