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Re: The Difficulty of Talking About Accessibility for the *

From: Steven McCaffrey <SMCCAFFR@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 10:02:52 -0400
Message-Id: <s61201e9.059@MAIL.NYSED.GOV>
To: bkdelong@naw.org, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

A very interesting discussion.  I am a senior programmer/analyst with the New York State Department of Education, am blind and use one of the latest versions of a screen review program.  
     First, I strongly agree with
"the Page AuthoringGuidelines really go over how to make your Web site more accessible without
having to completely sacrifice design...or maintain a completely seperate
text page. When Web developers hear accessibility, they think work. If you
think about it, it really isn't. If you're Web site is HTML 4.0
compliant....then you're most of the way there to being Accessible."  
I would just like to add my voice to these excellent points.  Yesterday, I gave a short demonstration of speech output technology for the blind and made some comments about making accessible web sites.  The audience was a government office.  The overall point was that there are no generalizations worth stating. Some content is made accessible more easily than other content, and,  as you indicate, there are variables such as user agents and authoring tools.  However, it is really not very difficult to make most web sites/documents accessible. If someone asks me how to make a site accessible to blind persons, my first question is what assumptions are being made with regard to the following: 
1) browser (and version)
2) adaptive technology
 a. braille displays
 b. screen review programs
3) Knowledge of the consumer (web page visitor)
 a. Some screen review programs have advanced features which, if used, could be the difference between some specific presentation method (e.g. tables) being accessible or not.  Are you assuming the average visitor has the appropriate knowledge? 
4) meaning of accessibility of your content
 a. degree of ease of access to types of content
  a.1 forms
  a.2 tables
  a.3 pictures, graphs, charts ...
  Note that, in my view, discussion about access to content cannot begin until 1), 2), and 3) are answered.
The following questions are for clarification purposes only and are not criticisms of any kind.  It is important to keep the discussion positive while precisely describing the issues in a systematic, "top-down" manner, fleshing out the details as needed.  I am simply interested in the overall process involved.   
Is HTML 4.0 compliance backward compatible?  That is, if I have an HTML 4.0 compliant site, is it accessible to blind persons using earlier versions of web browsers and screen review programs for example?  Are there any empirical data on just what browser/adaptive-technology combinations are being used?  If the answer to this latter question is "No", what assurance does a site/document designer have as to its accessibility?
     
 
  



   





------
Steven McCaffrey
Information Technology Services
NYSED
(518)-473-3453


>>> "B.K. DeLong" <bkdelong@naw.org> 09/29 5:08 PM >>>
Very interesting sentiments, Kynn. I spent a good portion of last week
sitting at a booth at Web '98. I coordinated, planed, and managed an event
for Web Accessibility and the Web Standards Project. If I let myself be
discouraged, I could easily be because we didn't have nearly as many people
as I had hoped at either event.

But, I managed to have Web Standards Project brochures at every
non-profit's booth (ACM, WOW, AIP, WITI, CPSR, and Webgrrls) as well as a
huge stack of W3C sheets talking about the Web Accessibility Initiative and
their Page Authoring Guidelines. When I'd feel my audience slipping from
our organization, I would jump in really quick about the other two efforts.

Every time I saw someone from an educational institution, government
organization, or military installation, I mentioned the 1996 US DOJ ruling
about how Web sites of public libraries, colleges and universities, state,
federal, or local government organizations AND- this one got them- almost
everyone who has a government contract need to be compliant with Title II
and III of the ADA, EVERYONE was interested. I ran out of information
sheets and people requested I e-mail them the URL for the page authoring
guidelines.

Plus, I explained to all other Web developers that the Page Authoring
Guidelines really go over how to make your Web site more accessible without
having to completely sacrifice design...or maintain a completely seperate
text page. When Web developers hear accessibility, they think work. If you
think about it, it really isn't. If you're Web site is HTML 4.0
compliant....then you're most of the way there to being Accessible.

Also, I think we should follow the good ideas of the Web Standards Project.
They are going after the "user agent" and "authoring tool" manufacturers,
having them make it so Web sites are more accessible. If we convince the
Web developing public that this is a good cause, (as the WSP has convinced
them.....), then they will fully support Web accessibility.

It's just a matter of figuring out how to push people's buttons and how to
get them going. Don't get discouraged. If people like you who are working
so hard for the cause lose faith....then so will everyone else. Keep up the
excellent work.
--
B.K. DeLong                  360 Huntington Ave.
Director                         Suite 140SC-305
New England Chapter     Boston, MA 02115
World Organization        (617) 247-3753
of Webmasters
 

http://www.world-webmasters.org 
bkdelong@naw.org 
Received on Wednesday, 30 September 1998 10:06:34 GMT

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