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In Response To: Claims Against Common Sense

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 20:33:52 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: raspberryw@washpost.com, webnews@washpost.com
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
In Mr. William Raspberry's November 16 column ("Claims Against
Common Sense"), he tells Randy Tamez -- a blind man who is denied
access to the Bay Area's public transit systems, and has filed
an ADA complaint to correct this -- that he needs to "get a 
grip" and quit violating common sense.

The problem?  Mr. Raspberry himself needs to get a grip -- a
better grip on what the World Wide Web is, how it functions, and
what it can do.

You see, Raspberry's argument is that the Web is full of "graphics,
sound, video clips, and such", and that making it easier for
people with visual disabilities to use the Web would necessitate
"a return to a text-based system."  Now, this would be perfect
common sense, save for one problem:  It's completely wrong.

Like many people -- among them, sadly, many of my fellow web
designers -- Raspberry has fallen into the trap of thinking that
the World Wide Web is a visual medium of communication.  It's not.
The Web is an information medium. 

A Web page, in raw form, is nothing more than simple information. 
How that's information is used can vary -- most commonly we see it
displayed by a Web browser on a computer screen, but the same
information can be conveyed in any number of ways, from a text
readout on an alphanumeric pager to a voice browser built into
the stereo of a car.

Part of the strength of the World Wide Web is that it's not only
independent of specific programs (such as Netscape or Internet
Explorer) or operating systems (Mac, PC, Unix), but it's even
constructed to work independent of the display devices you may
have.  In fact, you don't even need a computer to surf the Web.

Because the Web is designed with this level of interoperability,
it's actually quite easy to design a Web site that can be used
by anyone, anywhere.  And what's more, you can have all the 
graphics, animation, sound, and multimedia you'd like -- a Web
page that's accessible to the blind does not have to be text-only!
Any site can be rendered accessible with a minimum of effort;
universally accessible web design is easy, compared to Java.

Mr. Raspberry, in your column you applauded the use of curbcuts
on sidewalks -- why are curbcuts in cyberspace a crime against
common sense?

The World Wide Web is a resource of information and communication
for everyone.  The very nature of the Web opens doors of access to
users with disabilities that would otherwise be closed.  Think 
about it -- a blind person can "read" your column via a voice
browser; without the web, how could they know what you've written?
Using your suggestion regarding bus schedules, should they call
you up personally to find out what you've written?

The Web is a medium of communication we all can use -- why are
you so quick to slam the doors of access in the faces of people
who can't see as well as you?

--Kynn Bartlett
  President, HTML Writers Guild

Kynn Bartlett <kynn@hwg.org>
President, Governing Board Member
HTML Writers Guild <URL:http://www.hwg.org>
Received on Tuesday, 17 November 1998 23:37:39 UTC

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