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

From: Markku T. Hakkinen <hakkinen@dev.prodworks.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 01:37:27 -0500
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000301be2987$b67e3200$04000005@discovery.jsrd.or.jp>
Actually, I welcome the opportunity to clarify the NY Times article.

The current release of our product is packaged on a single line basis.
Multiple line systems are also possible. I do not wish to elaborate on this
list PW's marketing rationale, as the real purpose of this list is to
discuss web accessibility issues. The article in question was, in my mind,
an incomplete presentation of the issues related to voice browsing and also
inaccurately described aspects of our product. I'll leave it at that.

As an aside (and perhaps a springboard to a different discussion), we are
meeting here in Tokyo at a series of forums on information accessibility in
developing nations. In my presentation yesterday, and in discussions with
representatives from many nations, we spoke of a broad range of user agents,
from the accessible PC model, to telephone browsing, to low-cost, hand-held,
non-visual web access clients. It is clear that the work we are all doing in
WAI will have significant impact globally, to persons in diverse cultures,
with and without disabilities. Access to information is a fundamental human
right... the challenge to us in WAI (and W3C) is to make the promise of
universal access to information a reality.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
> Behalf Of ---
> Sent: Thursday, December 17, 1998 12:10 AM
> To: Jamal Mazrui; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Subject: Re: New York Times -- "Circuits: Web Access For The Blind"
> 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 01:37:45 UTC

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