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RE: The Difficulty of Talking About Accessibility for the *

From: Rich Caloggero <rich@accessexpressed.net>
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 1998 11:22:00 -0400
Message-ID: <01BDEDF6.E072CE80.rich@accessexpressed.net>
To: "'Kynn Bartlett'" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Well, I don't usually chime in on this kind of thing, but I'd like to vote for 
keepin on with your efforts Kynn, regardless of the flames. I'm blind, and I 
neither have a problem with the word nor other references with similar meaning 
(visually challenged is a bit much, but disabled doesn't bother me). I think 
the key is how it is meant. In other words, the reader must exercise some 
degree of intelligence in digesting the material. She must think about what is 
being said at a higher level than the phrase level. In one sense, you can't get 
around the use of such phrases/idiums, and as long as your intent is clear, the 
phrasing is not that important. If your message smacks of ignorance, for 
whatever reason, the phrasing may become more important. The HTML writers guild 
is neither ignorant of the needs of the disabled nor insensitive to their 
Keep on truckin.

On Tuesday, September 29, 1998 5:31 PM, Kynn Bartlett [SMTP:kynn@idyllmtn.com] 
> Recently, as you may be aware, the HTML Writers Guild has been
> very supportive of accessibility initiatives -- declaring one
> month earlier this year as 'Accessibility Month', setting up
> a project to provide feedback on the page author guidelines,
> running a class on accessible web design.  We've also extended
> a discount on membership dues to Guild members who are
> physically disabled.
> The problem, though, comes whenever we try to talk about what
> we're doing and impress our members (more than 75,000 of them)
> with the importance of designing pages that can be accessed by
> everyone.
> If we leave it vague, and don't mentioned handicapped users, they
> simply blend into "everyone", and most web authors are completely
> unaware that we don't simply mean 'people who use Netscape AND
> people who use MSIE' but rather 'people who can't even see
> pictures on the screen'.
> However, whenever we mention 'handicapped users', 'designing for
> the blind', 'disabled member discounts', or 'physically challenged
> individuals', we get flames.  Not from the people who can see,
> mind you -- but from angry physically disabled folks who are upset
> not at what we're doing, but with the terms we use.
> They don't like 'blind', or they do like 'blind' but they don't
> like 'handicapped'; this group over here doesn't like 'disabled',
> while this one can't stand 'challenged'.  Each action we think
> we're doing that's a step forward -- such as letting web designers
> know that not everyone uses a visual-based browser -- seems to be
> a step backwards in the eyes of some, and we hear about it in
> email.
> It's discouraging for us, too.  The Guild administration really
> doesn't like being flamed over semantics, especially since it should
> be obvious from context that we're not going out of our way to be
> either insensitive or insulting.  The headaches of trying to figure
> out what the 'right terms' to use are daunting, and may even lead
> some to figure "why bother??" -- especially when it seems there
> are _no_ phrases we can use that will please _everyone_.
> So, should we simply not mention blind web users when talking about
> designing for universal accessibility?  Should our material on
> voice browsers focus on phones and cars and not mention people
> who can't see?  Is it better to leave out the idea of blind people
> entirely when talking about aural style sheets?  Do you need to
> know that handicapped folks exist in order to use the ALT attribute
> correctly?
> Or should we simply accept word-choice flames as the "price" of
> doing the right thing?
> --
> Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com> http://www.idyllmtn.com/~kynn/
> Chief Technologist & Co-Owner, Idyll Mountain Internet; Fullerton,
> California
> Enroll now for my online stylesheets (CSS) class!
> http://www.hwg.org/classes/
> The voice of the future? http://www.hwg.org/opcenter/w3c/voicebrowsers.html
Received on Friday, 2 October 1998 11:24:47 UTC

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