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(unknown charset) The second thing I don't like about the WAI-IG list

From: (unknown charset) Charles F. Munat <coder@acnet.net>
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 1999 17:37:47 -0600
Message-ID: <002201be36ab$136ef960$221172a7@acnet.net>
To: (unknown charset) <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
#2

The second thing that I don't like about this list is
another common piece of propaganda. This is the
"accessibility is about more than just accessibility for
people with disabilities" thread. Hold it! Hold it! Don't
reach for that reply button yet, hear me out.

I agree that accessibility in the larger picture includes
making the web accessible to people by telephone, in their
cars, at information kiosks, through brain-implants,
whatever. I'm all for a variety of methods of access and I
support CSS, XSL, and whatever methods might come along to
make pages work for a variety of media.

BUT...

The issue of making sure a site is accessible to a person
using the telephone is a business issue. The question is,
Does it make sense for my company to spend X amount of
dollars extra to make sure this site is accessible to the X
percent of our visitors who might be using the phone to
access the site. And the answer is pure math. If you are
getting 0.05% of your hits from people using Lynx, it would
be a very foolish decision to spend extra money (or to
change the design of the site to one you might not like as
much) just to make sure it is accessible to those visitors.

Now I can already hear the screaming: "It doesn't take any
extra money or effort!" or "You don't have to give up your
current design!" See previous post (The first thing...).

No businessperson who wants to remain in business can afford
to ignore the simple logic of this type of decision. If I go
to my client and say it's going to cost you 5% more to make
your site accessible to 0.5% more people, he or she is going
to question my sanity. And rightly so, from a business point
of view.

Play with the numbers if you like. Make it a 0.5% extra cost
to make the site accessible to 5% more people. Fine. Now it
makes sense, but the point is that it is a *business*
decision.

Making a site accessible to people with disabilities is also
a business decision (and given the numbers involved, a wise
one, in my opinion). But it is MUCH MORE THAN THAT. Making a
site accessible to people who cannot access it any other way
is an ethical decision. When you decide that you can't
afford to support phone accessibility (setting aside the
possibility that this might affect people with
disabilities), you are deciding not to provide a
*convenience* to your clientele. Not much different than
deciding whether to have a site at all, or, for that matter,
roughly equivalent to a burger joint deciding whether to add
a drive-through window (accessible to people in their
cars--how American).

But a site that is inaccessible to people with disabilities
is equivalent to segregating and ostracizing a portion of
the population who cannot chose to no longer be persons with
disabilities. Such a site is an *unethical* site in my
opinion, and this list fails to capitalize on the moral
power of that fact when it plays the "accessible for
everyone" game.

Again, I think making sites work in various mediums and on
various browsers is an important part of consumer choice and
good business sense. But I am offended by the implied
equivalency between providing a convenience and
acknowledging the *right* of everyone to equal access to
that information.

There are plenty of related issues here that I won't get
into, such as the "artistic sites" thread (undecided on that
one), the official sites vs. corporate or personal sites
thread (I tend to think that personal sites might be exempt,
but corporate sites should serve all the public), etc.

OK, go for the reply button. I'm braced.

One more to go.

Charles Munat
Puerto Vallarta
Received on Saturday, 2 January 1999 19:01:35 GMT

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