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RE: please help correct a problem?

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 13:23:27 -0500
Message-Id: <199910101725.NAA09374@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>, cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 06:21 PM 10/8/99 -0700, Scott Luebking wrote:
>Ms. Waddell,
>Thanks for the information, but I might not have been very clear on what
>I was saying.  For example, a blind person chooses not to use the
>Explorer because the individual prefers to use lynx via shell.  However,
>other blind people can use the Explorer with JAWS.  The issue then
>becomes whether the preference of the blind student or the preference of
>the professor prevails.  One interesting implication of this might be
>that JAWS could be raising the accessibility bar.

Let's start by focusing an aspect of this situation that Cynthia raised and
you have so far studiously ignored: that the professor is the deliverer of
a public service, and the student is a member of a class of service
consumers with identified civil rights.  This points to how the rule of law
in our society helps to reduce individual conflict.  

In resolving a disagreement between an individual professor and an
individual student, the law says the University has to take into account
generally accepted standards from the broader community like the WCAG which
are recognized as protecting the interests of all blind students who might
wish to browse the course notes, not just the individuals who happen to be
enrolled in this session of this class.  

This moves the dialog off the level of a personal conflict to a question of
what public institutions (the university) offer the public.  This
particular dispute has both technical and policy sides to the equation.
Many professors at ranking universities may understand the technical side
of the equation better than the OCR.  On the other hand, it is likely that
few understand the policy side of the equation better than the OCR.

Academics are not accustomed to being held accountable to public standards
of effective communication.  They are accustomed to writing their own rules
through peer review and the editorial policy of the archival journals.  On
the other hand, the modern technology that you speak of also has made human
communication a much more open phenomenon, with the network patterns of who
can participate in educational exchanges penetrating the ivy walls of
academe much more transparently than in the past.  This means that the
freedom of academics to control their own use of media should be questioned
just as much as the W3C's competence to set media standards for use in
academic settings should be questioned (which it should).  It's a new ball
game.  We all have assumptions to un-learn.  Academe will be more effective
in the end for undergoing the pain of this adjustment.  And it might as
well start at Berkeley where there are such smart people to figure out how
to do it.

Received on Sunday, 10 October 1999 13:23:47 UTC

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