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Re: WaitingForBob -- Selfish Reason for Accessibility

From: Christopher R. Maden <crism@yomu.com>
Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 00:58:17 -0700
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <>
At 07:21 7-06-2000 -0700, William Loughborough wrote:
>Got to have standards.
>Got to enforce the standards.

While ISO standards have force of law in some countries, some of the most 
successful standards in terms of compliance include HTTP, SMTP, and 
XML.  One (XML) is "enforced" by an industry consortium (the W3C), and the 
other two by a decentralized amorphous group (the IETF).  These standards 
are successful because the benefits of compliance are obvious and intensive 
education efforts have been run by various groups at various times.  (AOL 
and Microsoft had notable non-compliance events with HTTP.  They were 
smacked into line not by any authority, but by a failure to communicate 
with other Internet entities.)

In the case of accessibility, law enforcement will produce grudging 
adherence to the letter of the law, which will not actually improve the 
accessibility of the Web.  Education that demonstrates the concrete 
benefits of real accessibility will produce motivated accessibility efforts 
on the part of content providers.

>In matters similar to this in all civil/human rights movements there is
>this frequent cry "you can't legislate morality, what's needed is
>education." One of the best educations is a 2x4 upside yo' head.

Any sysadmin knows the value of a LART.  But the sysadmin has real 
enforcement power on a system.  The biggest problem with trying to enforce 
anything on the Internet is that actual power to change anything is close 
to zero.  Any law ultimately has a gun behind it; figuring out where to 
point those guns on the 'net is next to impossible.  Enforcement *can't* 
work - my philosophical disagreement with it is moot.

>I don't know if Chris is advocating we take no further steps to
>promulgate regulations concerning standards compliance by government Web
>sites or the proscription against our taxes being used to buy
>inaccessible software, but if he is...

If I am, what?  You'll take a 2x4 to my head?

I want to make it clear that there is a significant difference between laws 
requiring that the government itself be accessible - which is effectively 
the same as a corporate regulation - and laws requiring that other entities 
be accessible.  Here I'm referring to the DOJ finding that Web sites were 
likely public accommodations covered by the ADA.  I think that attempts to 
rigorously enforce general accessibility, whether through litigation or 
criminal proceedings, will give accessibility a bad name and hinder efforts 
to make the Web a better place.  A better idea is to vote with your feet, 
and to encourage others to do the same.  Organize boycotts and awards.  I 
use Lynx as my primary browser, and I simply refuse to visit sites that 
can't be seen with Lynx.  It acts as an excellent bozo filter; generally, 
if it doesn't work in Lynx, the content really isn't that interesting anyway.


Christopher R. Maden, Solutions Architect
Yomu: <URL:http://www.yomu.com/>
One Embarcadero Center, Ste. 2405
San Francisco, CA 94111
Received on Thursday, 8 June 2000 04:05:08 UTC

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