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Re: single browser intranets

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 01:29:24 -0400 (EDT)
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
cc: poehlman@clark.net, unagi69@concentric.net, sweetent@home.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.20.9910270100490.23920-100000@tux.w3.org>
These are interesting questions indeed.

The GL working group drew on expertise from a number of fields, and on many
many years of experience, and produced what is generally regarded as an
extremely good explanation of what makes Web Content accessible, in terms of
the functions it needs to provide. But a website which exists for all to use,
and a piece of courseware that is relevant to a small group of people for a
short amount of time are two different things. (To ignore that it has been
suggested that the WCAG could be improved in various ways.)

In specific cases, there are a bunch of important questions:

Who is using the material? (Do you have blind students? Deaf students? People
who suffer from hemiplegia, muscular dystrophy, missing or malformed limbs?)

How likely are they to have learned to use the technology? (Does everyone
have a vaccum pippette at home? A magnifying glass? a mass
spectromoeter? A gas flame?)

How germane is the technology in general to the subect material? (If I want
to be a mathematician, does it matter whether I smudge the ink using a
fountain pen?)

How fast must they learn to use incidental technology? (Do you expect people
to change operating systems in a week? A month? the year before the course?)

What support is provided, and what other requirements can they be expected to
have? (Do they have to buy $1000 worth of software for themselves? Are
computers already provided with the necessary materials loaded? Are they
likely to take three classes that each require learning a particular type of
assistive technology?)

With the benefit of statistical and qualitative hindsight we might get
answers we can use to further generalise, or to predict ways that will solve
specific situations. Who didn't take the course? Who failed because it was
too difficult, and who failed because access was too difficult? Did people
with disabilities do significantly better than expected? All these are even
more complex questions than the first lot, and less likely to have sure

There are two approaches here. One is to design things that are known, or
generally recognised, to be universally accessible. The other is to try and
guess which groups of users you can safely ignore, and gamble that it will be
cheaper, easier, or more useful to everyone to instead make accommodations
for them on an ad hoc basis. (There is a third approach, which is not to
bother trying to cater for people with disabilities. Although I know that in
the real world people use it, I personally find it pretty disgusting.)

WAI has focussed on the first approach, for a number of reasons, including
the fact that it is the most efficient way to use our resources.

More of my 2 bits.

Charles McCN

On Tue, 26 Oct 1999, Scott Luebking wrote:

  What is an accessible design?  Who decides?
  The blind chemistry team I've been working with has two blind
  members.  They came to me and asked that we rework the design
  of the web pages to provide certain features which would improve
  accessibility.  I told them we could do it, but only IE 4/5 has
  the functions that will be needed for their requested features.
  Other browsers like Netscape and lynx won't work.
  Now, since there are blind users who love the accessibility of the
  new features even though the pages only run on one browser, 
  are the pages accessible?  My impression is that some other blind people
  would say not because they would have to learn IE 4/5 and JAWS.
  These types of conflicts can make designing accessible software
  very frustrating.
  > add to this the cost of training and the steepnes of the learning
  > curve and the free help available for those wishing to effectively
  > design and you come up with a financially plausable reason for
  > implimentation of an accessible design.

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Wednesday, 27 October 1999 01:29:31 UTC

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