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Re: AWARE Center Common Myths About Web Accessibility

From: pfhyper <pf@pfhyper.com>
Date: Sat, 8 May 1999 13:14:29 -0500
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <19990508180916.850B84C010@mail.gofast.net>
>On the myths list, I think for those people already familiar with Web
>accessibility, it will make sense. For someone new to the issue, which is
>really a lot of the audience who is now becoming aware of this issue now
>that the guidelines are out, 'accessibility is hard, let's go shopping' may
>be confusing since people may not even be able to recognize the myth, while
>"good assistive technology can solve all..." is a straightforward
>exploration of an unconscious assumption some people make, and so will
>probably have more clarifying impact for the reader who lands on this page.
>I'm interested in others' reactions.

I am new to this list and to Web accessibility in general.  However, I've 
taught HTML since the early nineties and have always stressed simplicity 
in design and creating well-formed documents.  I'm happy to say that most 
of the sites that I have worked on either meet or are very close to 
meeting accessibility guidelines. 

I think the AWARE Myths page is very good.  I do have a comment on Myth 
#3: "Web accessibility is too difficult for the average web designer."

I'm not sure this is a myth. I guess it depends on how you define 
"average."  When technologists/designers like Oz Lubling at Razorfish and 
Kari Friedman at Organic can make outrageous statements about 
accessibility, where does that leave the average designer?  These are 
major design houses and their words carry weight; Heidi Kriz, author of 
the Wired story, didn't add any detail to the statements and published 
them at face value.

(Wired article: Sites Must Retool for Disabled by Heidi Kriz, 
http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/19556.html. Friedman:"I 
would suspect it would raise costs at least twice as much.")

I tell my students that HTML is "seductively simple," once you understand 
the basic concepts of tags and containers.  But true knowledge of the 
language (at the level of a Yoda or Jedi Knight, sorry, couldn't resist, 
Star Wars mania in the USA), requires some study and reading.  I 
recommend a really thick book about HTML for reference (Ian Graham's HTML 
Sourcebook is my favorite).  I also give them the URLs for WWW Consortium 
and I now discuss accessibility.

I doubt many average web designers have heard of accessibility or have 
ever looked at the HTML specifications at W3. Some barely know what a tag 
is or that an HTML document is just a text document. 

IMHO, accessibility means well-formed HTML documents and this requires a 
deeper knowledge of the language than most average designers have.  To a 
certain degree, the bar is being raised in terms of the education 
necessary for building web sites.  (Time to "view source" in your WYSIWYG 
development tool.) I don't have a problem with this.

You know, the ALT attribute is a really good example of some of the 
confusion surrounding accessibility.  Most of the articles have mentioned 
the need for alternative text for images as if it's some new idea the US 
government is now going to force on the Web.  But *every* HTML book that 
I have looked at, going back several years, has stated that ALT should be 
used for all images.  Most of the books say it's important in terms of 
text browsers but some now mention how it helps for accessibility for the 

To conclude, here is the quote I would like to see in one of these 
articles:  "At our shop, accessibility is not a big issue or expensive. 
It really comes as part of HTML, if you know the language.  We always 
have alternative text for images; it's just a given and very easy to 
implement in the context of the language. Designers who say differently 
really aren't aware of what accessibility means."

Peter Fleck
PF Hyper New Media
Minneapolis, MN USA 55406
fax: 612-204-9730

            === pf@pfhyper.com  |  http://www.pfhyper.com ===
Received on Saturday, 8 May 1999 14:09:18 UTC

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