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Re: New York Times -- "Circuits: Web Access For The Blind"

From: --- <richardp@akamail.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 00:10:03 -0500
Message-Id: <199812170507.AAA08913@screamer.cftnet.com>
To: "Jamal Mazrui" <empower@smart.net>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
As Debra Nussbaum correctly notes, "... the current version of this
particular product [Pwwebspeak] has a big
limitation:
only one person can call in at a time to each pwTelephone,
because it responds to each user's request."

The service our company officially released in October, "Tel-Web", is truly
that, a
service (as in we do all the work) allowing an unlimited number of callers
to access the
Internet with none of the usual prerequisites: PCs, specially-equipped cell
phones, modems, sound cards, software. or even knowledge of computers,
browsers
or the Internet.  People only have to
have in their possession and know how to use a telephone in order to access
the Web.

Please don't misunderstand, we're definitely not knocking "Pwwebspeak". 
It's a great product with a great following and undoubtedly has helped
many, many
individuals gain access to the Web who would otherwise could not due to
sight disability.  However, I think most would agree that issue of
"Universal Access" to the Internet does not only pertain exclusively to
those who are sight impaired or otherwise physically challenged, but to all
people who find it difficult or impossible to access the Internet through
circumstances beyond their control, whether they be technological, economic
or social.

Tel-Web is the only technology available today that we are aware of that
makes it possible for anyone, regardless of socio-economic status or
computer knowledge (or lack thereof) to access
the Internet, which in turn could have a significant, positive impact on
peoples lives around the globe.  Too over the top?  Maybe, but consider the
following fictional, but representative example of the potential impact of
this type of access:

"It's 4:30am and Miguel makes the long journey by horseback from his small
house in coffee farm country outside Bogota, to the crop wholesaler in
town.  He does not call ahead to see if the trip will be worthwhile because
he knows he will get a busy signal instead of a person anyway.  With one
office handling so many farmers, the line is always busy and lately no one
even picks up the phone.  When he finally arrives he finds that once again,
coffee prices have fallen and he would be better off waiting another few
weeks before selling his crops.

The Colombian government agricultural web site has a wealth of information
for it's farmers (crop selling prices, precipitation forecasts, soil survey
information, etc., but Miguel, with his limited means cannot be expected to
purchase a computer, modem, special cell phone or other costly appliance to
access the Internet.  However, telephone service is almost universal, even
in the hills outside Bogota and even in the poorest of countries around the
world.  Using Tel-Web, this same farmer could access the government's
agricultural web site and could even access other web sites that have
information related to his specific crops, etc."

This type of service could be easily underwritten by any government or a
consortium of generous nations
as part of an economic development fund.

We're also not saying we're perfect.  We have a long way to go in terms
of supporting web content.  As this point in time, our browsing capability
is not as full-featured as Pwwebspeak or some others, but our belief is
that the most important thing is ACCESS.  Meaning, availability of the
Internet to everyone, but not necessarily always access to every web site
and every web site's specific graphic content.  Universal Access requires
at least one 'Internet appliance' that is accessible to the masses.  We
believe this appliance MUST be the standard touch-tone telephone, due to
it's ubiquitous nature.

Our goal is to provide the
highest degree of access and present it in a manner that is
aurally-comprehensible to most people.  We believe this is one of
most important challenges in the ongoing effort, to which all of the people
on this list are committed, to make good on the promise of Universal Access
by eliminating all barriers to access.

Richard Premack
interNext

richardp@akamail.com or info@inter-next.net
727-578-1058
Received on Thursday, 17 December 1998 00:11:05 GMT

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