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Re: QED & Marshall McLuhan

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 00:25:59 -0400 (EDT)
To: Ann Navarro <ann@webgeek.com>
cc: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>, Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.9906110003560.3260-100000@tux.w3.org>
An attempt (I'm really too tired to do this justice, and not skilled enough,
but I believe that it can be done.

When we make something, there are things it has to have. This is what we have
done so far.

We can also make something with things that it might have. We have to show
which things have to be there, and which are the things that might be there.
We can do this with a marker like "?".

In this example of a sundae, 

  <!ELEMENT sundae (icecream, whippedcream, nuts? (fudge | caramel))>

icecream and whipped cream have to be there. 

The fudge and caramel are in brackets "(" and ")" We have to have something
that is in the brackets. But because there is the marker "|" between them, we
know that we can choose which one we want.

But we can have nuts, or not have nuts. the "?" marker with the nuts
lets us know that it is something we can have but don't have to. 

( I have assumed from the context that the general notation had already been
explained, and that I have understood it more or less correctly.

I wrote that straight off in two minutes as an immediate reply. It is clearly
possible to increaase the accessibility of such a concept dramatically.

It seems that there is a continuum of accessibility in this area as in
others. We should be aiming to capture as much of that continuum as possible,
and the factors that influence our decision will include our own ability, the
cost of providing the benefit, and our own perception of the audience. Two of
these factors rely on us to make the effort to know better, and one of them
is an external constraint on how much we are prepared to do, both in learning
and in carrying out the necessary tasks.

I feel that there is a mutual obligation. Those of us who claim to know about
accessibility, and to provide skills in this area, are obliged to refine and
further our skills. Those of us who have expertise, particularly in an area
where that expertise seems rare, or the necessity for it seems poorly
understood, need to spread that expertise.

There are clearly strategies which can be used to improve the accessibility
of a website to people with cognitive disabilities - the use of illustrative
images, language which is as clear and simple as possible in the
circumstances, the addition of multimedia presentations which reduce reliance
on text as the only method of communication, all have a part to play.
Likewise, the use of images and sounds as an aid to accessibility needs to be
handled with care to ensure that it does not get in the way of accessibility
for some other group. Again I would draw attenetion to the needs of people
who are deaf - sound is not particularly cvaluable to them, but images and
movement are, since many of them are "illiterate" in their primary sign
language and therefore have to learn a second language represented in
abstract symbols without the benefit of having learned how to use abstract
static symbols.

Having worked 40 hours straight, I apologise if I am not even less clear than

Charles McCN

On Thu, 10 Jun 1999, Ann Navarro wrote:

  At 05:37 PM 6/10/99 -0400, Anne Pemberton wrote:
  >At 10:42 AM 6/10/1999 -0700, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
  >>Yes, everyone should be able to _access_ the information, and
  >>there should be a guarantee of _that_, but I cannot stomach the
  >>idea that it is _my_ obligation to make _every_ piece of
  >>information "understandable" in a way that is obvious to someone
  >>with a learning disability.
  >Kynn, you haven't "accessed" information until you can "understand" it.
  >Anything less, isn't "access", it's an approximation. 
  Demonstrate, please, how to express the following concept so that a child,
  someone with cognitive disabilities, and someone with a low IQ can
  understand it sufficiently that you would label it as "accessible", WITHOUT
  changing the very specific detail required of a technical specification: 
  (the following is a real passage from a book I'm currently working on. It
  is *already* prose vs. the EBNF declaration that is the primary resource
  for such information)
  So far, our element declarations have dealt with sub-elements that must
  occur; that is, none have been optional, nor have they explicitly been able
  to occur more than once. In order to indicate a sub-element's optional or
  recurring status, you need to add an occurrence indicator to the element
  declaration. Occurrence indicators are single character symbols that appear
  immediately after the generic identifier name or sequence of names. For
  instance, if we chose to make the nuts in our ice-cream sundae element
  optional, we would write: 
  <!ELEMENT sundae (icecream, whippedcream, nuts? (fudge | caramel))>
  The ? symbol in this declaration indicates that the sub-element is
  optional, and may occur zero or 1 times within the parent element. 
  Until the *how* is demonstrated, the reaction you're going to get from web
  developers is "gee, that's well intentioned, but naive/unreasonable". The
  reality for this example may be the same as that initial reaction. 
  Note that this exercise doesn't even begin to address the issue of why a
  child needs to understand occurance indicators within element declarations
  in an XML DTD, or why a technical discussion is obligated to make such
  information "understandable" by anyone who may come across it. 

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Friday, 11 June 1999 00:29:15 UTC

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