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Re: The second thing I don't like about the WAI-IG list

From: Charles F. Munat <coder@acnet.net>
Date: Sun, 3 Jan 1999 01:18:14 -0600
Message-ID: <005101be36e9$3c55fa20$3c1172a7@acnet.net>
To: +ADw-w3c-wai-ig+AEA-w3.org+AD4

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles F. Munat +ADw-coder+AEA-acnet.net+AD4-
To: Kynn Bartlett +ADw-kynn-hwg+AEA-idyllmtn.com+AD4-
Date: Saturday, January 02, 1999 8:06 PM
Subject: Re: The second thing I don't like about the WAI-IG

At 06:46 p.m. 01/02/99 -0600, Charles F. Munat wrote:

+AD4APg-So do not underestimate the power of ethical or moral
+AD4APg-arguments. Nations have toppled over them.

At 07:11 p.m. 01/02/99 -0600, Kynn Bartlett wrote:

+AD4-I disagree.  Nobody cares about the disabled except perhaps
+AD4-objects of pity.  This is why we have laws requiring access
+AD4-public buildings, for example -- because nobody, out of the
+AD4-goodness of their hearts, will just do it because it's
+AD4-People only care when they're forced to care.

Ouch+ACE- This is really cynical. Again, I disagree.
Corporations have to be forced (not always, but often),
whether by law or by public opinion, because corporations
are inhuman. And the people who work in them are conditioned
to think bottom line, not ethics. They often feel powerless
against the might of the company. But people are not
corporations, and even the CEO who just created a new toxic
waste dump may go out of his or her way to do a kind thing
for a stranger.

Most, if not all, people want to feel good about themselves.
It's hard to feel good about yourself when you are hurting
other people. So, the best way to stop people from hurting
others is to make them aware of that harm, and to make them
aware that others are also aware. The law should always be a
last resort, not the first resort.

And as for caring, you can force people to act, but you
cannot force them to care. They either do or they don't. And
my experience is that people usually do. People are a lot
more complex than is implied by the argument above.

+AD4-(Of course the above is over-stated+ADs- however, as a
+AD4-it's true for the majority of society.  If your view on
+AD4-and morality were right, then there would be +AF8-no+AF8- barriers
+AD4-for the disabled to overcome, because the able-bodied would
+AD4-eagerly going out of their way to eliminate all obstacles.
+AD4-isn't the case, because people aren't +ACI-ethical+ACI- and

This is simply untrue. First, if you look at the polls
you'll see that the majority of people, at least in the
U.S., want to see greater accessibility for people with
disabilities. I suspect the numbers may be even greater in
other countries. Do not confuse corporate and government
policy with the desires of the people. In the U.S., as in
most countries, the government and big business serve the
interests of the elite, and they will only bend when those
interests are threatened. The ADA passed, not because we
have enlightened leaders in Congress, but becuase a lot of
ordinary Americans, many of them not considering themselves
disabled, made it too costly for the powers-that-be to
avoid. And those same people continue to pressure the
goverment to enforce it. Where do they fit into the above

The fallacy of your argument, Kynn, is obvious. You have
stated that you are not disabled. Yet you obviously are a
passionate advocate for accessibility. Is this really only a
selfish pursuit for business gain, or are you in fact an
ethical, moral person? My guess is the later. Is it not also
possible that I, too, am an ethical person? And if so, what
about the others on this list, or were you making exceptions
for them, too? And do you really believe that of all the
people all over the world devoting time to volunteer work,
giving money to charities, etc., only we care about the
rights of people with disabilities? I hope not.

+AD4APg-Overall your argument seems cynical to me. Worse, you make
+AD4APgAi-idealist+ACI- sound like a four-letter word. Idealism is what
+AD4APg-makes us most human. It is our greatest gift, that we can
+AD4APg-see beyond our immediate needs. To dismiss this as naive
+AD4APg-to play--quite consciously--to selfishness seems to me to
+AD4APg-perhaps win the battle but lose the war. It is a price I,
+AD4APg-for one, am not willing to pay.

+AD4-I think you misinterpreted what I said.  (Plus, in your
third on
+AD4-what you don't like, you referred to +ACI-human nature+ACI-

Perhaps I did misinterpret you. I hope so. But I think that
you may not have pursued your line of reasoning to its
obvious conclusion. See the discussion above about who is
ethical and who isn't.

+AD4-Why is accessibility for the blind on +ACI-higher moral ground+ACI-
+AD4-accessibility for the poor, accessibility for the users of
+AD4-standard web browsers, or accessibility for international

+AD4-I think you need to very carefully back up and reconsider
+AD4-you hold disabled users up on a pedestal they haven't
+AD4-asked to be placed on, and are promoting their concerns as
+AD4-only +ACI-moral+ACI- ones we face.  +AF8-My+AF8- moral high ground is
+AD4-for everyone+ACI- not +ACI-accessibility for anyone who isn't as
+AD4-functional as the typical person.+ACI-

+AD4-The latter high ground sounds awful condescending -- but
then, it
+AD4-should be noted that I'm not a disabled person.

First, I do not consider accessibility for people with
disabilities to be higher moral ground than accessibility
for the poor, and I did not say so. The issue centers around
the idea of choice. The person with a disability has no
choice but to live with that disability. The person who is
poor probably doesn't have much choice either. I consider
access for the poor to be equally important with access for
people with disabilites.

But let's talk about users of non-standard browsers. Let's
say that you like to use, oh, say, Opera, with image loading
and frames turned off. Well, that's your choice. Certainly
makes things faster. Actually, you had to pay for that
browser and had to go out of your way to turn images and
frames off. Now, to make my site accessible to you, given
your choice, might be a good business decision for me.
Depends. Are you the only one? Well, then turn the damn
images and frames back on. Are there a lot of you. Hmm,
better reconsider.

But is your refusal to turn the images and frames on a moral
one, or one of choice and convenience? You can just as
easily turn them on as off. How does this compare to the
person who MUST use a screen reader to access that
information. Should we really consider both of these to be
moral issues? Do these warrant equal consideration? Perhaps
you think so. I think not.

And making them equal is the truly condescending choice. I
am putting no-one on a pedestal. I do not speak for people
with disabilities. I only ask, What do I need to do to
permit you to access my site? Tell me, and I will do it if
at all possible. And if I can contribute to a fund to
distribute computers to those who can't afford them (or at
least get access for them in some way), I will do so
(proportionately with other issues that I must confront...
can't do everything). Describing this as +ACIAWw-putting them+AF0- up
on a pedestal+ACI- smacks to me of the +ACI-No Special Rights+ACI-
argument used against the gay community. Does the ADA put
people with disabilities on a pedestal? Certainly it's about
+ACI-rights+ACI- and rights are always moral and ethical issues. I
don't see that wanting people who did not choose their
condition to be able to overcome its limitations is putting
them on a pedestal. I think it's simply being just.

And as for international users, well that depends on the
intended audience. If your information is pertinent to only
people in your region, I don't see that you need to make it
accessible to the curious from other regions. Should every
site be translated into every language just in case? Again,
not a moral issue but one of business sense and logistics.
It makes sense to translate your site or insure
international access only when your clientele is
international (I should know... I live and work in Mexico
and build sites in English for an American and Canadian
audience, sometimes with translation into Spanish and other

I'm ready to hear from some others on this issue. Anyone

Charles Munat
Puerto Vallarta
Received on Sunday, 3 January 1999 02:26:36 UTC

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