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RE: please help correct a problem?

From: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 11:21:57 -0700 (PDT)
Message-Id: <199910101821.LAA12678@netcom17.netcom.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Hi, Al

It's a complicated issue.  I've been asked many questions.  (I'll skip
the ones related to academic freedom.)  For example, what is a
reasonable amount of time for a professor and assistants to spend on
accessibility issues?  Is it ethical for a professor not to better serve
the non-disabled students by using the latest technology in order for
disabled students to use technology?  Is it the professor's
responsibility or is it the university's responsibility, e.g. who
provides the resources and training around accessibility?  Because
technology is changing and because academia can be on the cutting edge
of technology, what should be done when there are no community standards
or the standards lag behind the technology?  (The guidelines are already
becoming more out of date with what the general community is / will be using
in web technology.)  Is it the professor's responsibility to make up for
the community's technology gap?

You brought up another interesting point.  How much effort should a
professor spend making course materials accessible for people who aren't
his students?

I think you are right that the professors are more likely to understand
the technology issues while OCR may understand the policy issues.  OCR
doesn't understand the technology and some of its rulings may become quickly
outdated as technology changes.  The academics often understand the new
technology, but don't understand the access issues.  Very few disabled
people learn and understand the new technology much less the access
issues of the new technology.

And to make matters worse, they are not talking with each other.

Scott

> 
> 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.
> 
> Al
Received on Sunday, 10 October 1999 14:21:56 GMT

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