W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > April to June 1999

Re: Understanding vs. Accessibility

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 09:22:33 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 11:31 AM 6/11/1999 -0700, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
>>If it's an accessibility issue to choose to turn off the graphics, then
>>turning on the graphics is also an accessibility issue. But you can't turn
>>on what isn't there, and the guidelines as David listed them, would insure
>>that the graphics are indeed there for those who need and want them.
>>Without them, the information is _denied them because of their disability_. 
>The information is _available to them_.
No, it isn't. It is _denied them because of their disability_ as surely as
information in graphics that aren't alt tagged is _denied_ to those who
can't see graphics. 

>Look, I teach web accessibility classes online.  I talk to hundreds
>of web authors and instruct them creating web sites.  What would
>you have me tell them?  "Dumb down your writing because there are
>people who can't understand it; all content must be written so
>that cognitively disabled people can understand it?  Include plenty
>of graphics in all content, because there are people who can't
>read who want access to your site?"

Then you are an important person for me to convince. 

I would have you tell them to write clearly and simply so that it can be
understood by the widest audience, and absolutely include "meaningful
graphics" that assist the reader in understanding what is said. I would
have you tell them to spend as much or more time choosing the graphics for
a site as in writing the content so that they help convey the message of
the content. Tell them that when they use words not readily understood,
that they can include links to pictures or definitions to aid the reader.
Not only a low=level reader would be assistend, by anyone else accessing
the information new. Tell them that when they are considering their
audience, to broaden it to include all people who would be interested in
the information, and aim their writing so that it can be understood by the
widest, including those who are blind, learning disabled, and retarded. 

>Should all web authors now be _required_ to become experts in 
>communicating with cognitively disabled?  I think that is far
>too much to ask, and you are still confusing "accessibility" with

As I recently pointed out, "readily understandable" is part of the
definition of accessibility in the first dictionary I checked out. Check
your own dictionary and see if understandability isn't part of
accessibility in your book! Your course already asks them to become
"experts" in communicating with the blind, why not include more people? I
see your distinction between "accessibility" and "understanding" to be a
strawman that is having the effect of dividing folks with disability into
groups - those who are invited to the web, and those who are to be
ghettoized from the web even though they have gained access and are alreay
here and waiting to use it. It's a cruel distinction, and you continued use
of terms such as "dumbing down" suggests discrimination is at the root of
the problem. Perhaps it's just too easy to discriminate against people if
the person doesn't know some folks in the category and have a personal
reason to include them. 


>Kynn Bartlett                                    mailto:kynn@hwg.org
>President, HTML Writers Guild                    http://www.hwg.org/
>AWARE Center Director                          http://aware.hwg.org/
Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Saturday, 12 June 1999 10:37:51 UTC

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