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Re: Single Browser Intranets

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 00:50:24 -0400
Message-Id: <199910250450.AAA22523@www.clark.net>
To: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
CC: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I very much appreciate your experience with this.  I think organizations of
all different shapes and sizes are bound to repeat to this kind of mistake
(We are standardizing on Browser X) because they are not interested in
solving the problems -- and they are ignoring lessons that most of us
learned years ago!  They are ignoring the experinece from the 'net that lead
to the web!

To quote Tim Berners-Lee:  "Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed
with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old
days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document
written on another computer, another word processor, or another network."

I also remember a discussion that took place here that expecting a blind
person to change browsers was not a reasonable request if they would also
have to change screen readers.  Some folks who are blind can and do switch
between screen readers.  Most however, due to the cost of the screen reading
software, and the investment of time needed to master the interface, are
commited to a particular product.  Changing screen readers, I would argue,
is at least as difficult (disorienting) as changing operating systems.

With regards to a current fight (with a univerity) that I am involved with,
it seems to me that the professor is enamored with the wiz-bang stuff and is
using technology for technology's sake.  The most recent example is that he
posted a PowerPoint slide show coupled with a audio background (him
talking).  The whole thing was delivered with a RealMedia streaming plugin. 
Mercifully, the presentation was short (less than two minutes).  Of course,
the download took almost that long to start, and was a few megabytes total
when done.  It would have taken less than 1k of html to present the actual
content.  The material was totally inaccessible (the PowerPoint material was
strictly photos of text, and the audio had no transcript).  Many students in
the class were having problems downloading this eye candy, so the
instruction labled it "optional".  In the discusion forems, where students
get to post their own work, there are more problems because files are a
hodge podge of Word, WordPerfect, RTF and PDF.  Most students, of course,
don't even understand file extention conventsion, so they think they are
just having computer problems.  Some of these students are in the process of
buying new computers so they con participate in the online course material
better.  The student blame themselves for the trouble they are having! 
(Wait 'til they drop a $1000 only to discover that they still have the same
number of technical glitches!)

I don't want to see teachers and students getting hobbled in their
interactions because of policy, but is it too much to require that both
students and their instructors post only VALID html?  Is it too much to
require that the university create tools so that participates paste text
into a bulletin board system, rather than posting binary files?

On the one hand, the temptation is to stand back and let people have fun
with the technology.  What is it to me that this instructor wants to be a
multimedia producer?  Who cares if these students aren't savy enough to
complain about a waste of bandwidth or frame ladden html?  On the other
hand, I can predict that things will stumble along with no real harm done,
until they get a student who is blind or deaf!  At that point, most involved
will see the student with a disability as creating a problem and as being a
disruption.  The real problem, of course, is lack of cross platform support,
interoperability, adherance to vendor-neutral standards (like html 3.2 or
4.01), and the failure to understand (and embrace) the web as an information

Bruce Bailey

>From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
>To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
>Cc: ann@webgeek.com, kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
>Subject: Re: Single Browser Intranets (was: Web Accessibility Myths)
>Date: Sun, Oct 24, 1999, 7:43 PM

>Part of the problem is people who are not interested in solving the problems.
>As Webmaster at RMIT (The largest university in Australia, with about 40 000
>students, and suspected to be the largets website in Australia at the time) I
>had a fairly simple approach. Content needs to be provided in a form that the
>students can use. For us this meant that lynx had to be supported, among
>other browsers.
>Systems support was provided for some software used by some departments, and
>not at all for other vital software.
>So when I had to teach administrative officers from the HR department (total
>computing background: Brief introduction to word-processing) or graphic
>design students or anyone else about web publishing the message was
>simple. There are plenty of things you can do that work across
>browsers. Before you move beyond them, figure out why and ask how it is
>done. It turned out that the things that were wanted were nearly always
>extremely simple to do accessibly, and it was worth providing answers for the
>problems. Itis not perfect, but it solved a lot of problems.
>(Policy is not actually a big interest of mine)
Received on Monday, 25 October 1999 00:50:40 UTC

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