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Re: Washington Post editoral: Claims Against Common Sense

From: John Whelan <whelan@itp.unibe.ch>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 16:29:51 +0100 (MET)
Message-Id: <199811171529.QAA21794@itp9.unibe.ch>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, empower@smart.net
William Raspberry writes, in the _Washington_Post_:

> But someone already has come up with something that works quite
> well for most of us: Web sites with lots of graphics, sound,
> video clips and such that make it possible to provide useful
> information in user-friendly ways (and also to facilitate the
> advertising that makes many Web sites worth providing in the
> first place). Apparently a return to a text-based system would
> make it easier for the visually impaired, though arguably less
> attractive for the rest of us. Is that a violation?

This is one of the most annoying fallacies floating around the net.  I
don't know the details of the SF case, which is why I'm posting here
and not writing to the Post, but from my experience with the Utah
Transit Authority web site, a similar complaint could be filed against
them, and it's not because their site is useful or user-friendly.  To
their credit, they have all of their bus schedules on the web.
Unfortunately, they are all GIF images of scanned hardcopies, which
are useless to blind users or those with only text connections to the
net, not to mention annoying to the rest of us.  Of course, the
logical way to format data like this would be with an HTML table.
With the use of style sheets, this could be made as slick as they
liked without destroying the essentially non-graphical data.  And with
the use of the SCOPE and perhaps HEADERS tags, the structure of the
table could be encoded in a way that could be interpreted by assistive
devices for non-graphical media.

So it's stupid to assume, at least when dealing with essentially
non-graphical data like a bus schedule, that the only options are an
inaccessible site or a vanilla text-based one.  (Of course, if the
site includes maps, those are inherently graphical, and it makes sense
to display those as images, and it would be silly to demand that the
richness of information included there be converted to a textual
					John T. Whelan
Received on Tuesday, 17 November 1998 10:30:55 UTC

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