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Re: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 16:59:25 -0700
Message-Id: <4.1.19990610164734.01832a60@mail.idyllmtn.com>
To: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 02:37 PM 6/10/1999 , Anne Pemberton wrote:
>Kynn, you haven't "accessed" information until you can "understand" it.

Anne, I disagree entirely.  I have an obligation, for example,
to make my information on the creation of web content
_accessible_ to everyone -- meaning that they can access the
content.  I don't have an obligation to make sure everyone
_understands_ it.

The AWARE Center website (http://aware.hwg.org/) would mean
nothing to my grandmother, or my mother, or my friend Dave,
or anyone else who doesn't create web pages.  They would look
at detailed explanations of web creation processes and shrug,
because it means nothing to them.

Likewise, someone living in Japan who doesn't speak a word of
English won't be able to understand my site either.

However, it is _accessible_ to them -- they can get at the
information as it was written -- just as the content is
accessible to someone with a visual disability, a motor
disability, or the like.  The information is _there_, and they
_can_ get to it.

Once I've done that, I've fulfilled my _obligation_ as a web

>Anything less, isn't "access", it's an approximation.

So if I can't understand, say, a phrase in French, then it is
the fault of the web creator for making an "inaccessible" page?
No, you are completely confusing "access" and "understanding"

>If information is put
>in a table and put on the web, you would have "access" to the information,
>but if you speech reader doesn't read everything within a cell as a unit,
>you can't "understand" it,

...and it's a fault of your web browser/screen reader...

>and, if I understand correctly, that is the main
>reason tables are considered "inaccessible" and aren't supposed to be used

The main reason is that some programs used by people with disabilities
couldn't handle poorly done tables.  Well done tables can now be 
handled by recent software, although poorly done tables are a 
problem still, and there is plenty of old software out there.

The poorly done tables are a problem of the web designer, and affect
more than just the screenreader access; the old software is a software
programmer problem.

>A blind friend was recently outraged when she attempted to use
>the www.netlibrary.com site because she couldn't find a way to apply for
>the service due to the presence of "confusing" image maps.

Was she able to access the information and it was just confusing,
or was it a case in which there was not information provided?  There
is a difference!

>The information
>was certainly "accessible" to her in the same way that the Web is
>"accessible" to those with literacy and cognitive differences find the web
>"accessible", but she couldn't get any understanding because the
>information was laid over graphics creating image maps that she didn't know
>how to get around.

I get confused going to some websites too; however, I would not 
state this as a case of "access" but rather as a case of "understanding"
or "usability."  My father, who although retired has no physical or
mental disabilities, took a look at a site recently and couldn't
figure out how to download the program he wanted.  This is NOT a case
of "access" but of "understanding".

>A partially-sited person checked the site, found where
>the link to the all-text form was, and she can now do what she wanted to do. 

Well, that's all good and well, but I prefer that we not make sweeping
use of the term "accessibility" to mean "understanding" when they are
clearly different things.

Yes, web sites _should_ be "understandable" to a degree, but that
is not the same as labelling ALT text, creating tables that degrade
gracefully, captioning multimedia, and labeling form inputs.

Maybe we're speaking a different language here -- do _you_ create
web sites and do _you_ understand what specific technical factors I
speak of when I say that web authors should create "accessible"
web sites?

Kynn Bartlett <kynn@hwg.org>
President, Governing Board Member
HTML Writers Guild <URL:http://www.hwg.org>
Director, Accessible Web Authoring Resources and Education Center
Received on Thursday, 10 June 1999 20:02:00 UTC

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