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Memorandum from Paul Taylor wrt ADA and the Internet

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 16:31:50 -0500
To: <Rep.Charles.Canady@mail.house.gov>
Cc: "Web Accessibility Initiative" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, <Paul.Taylor@mail.house.gov>
Message-ID: <002801bf638d$c3548ce0$1aac66a7@151877>
Honorable Charles Canady,

I have read the December 16, 1999 memorandum to you from Paul B. Taylor
(Counsel, Subcommittee on the Constitution) regarding "Hearing Proposal
Regarding the Application of the Americans With Disabilities Act's
Accessibility Requirements to Private Internet Web Sites and Services".  I
found a copy posted at the online version of Ragged Edge Magazine
"Disability Rights Nation" section at URL:
http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/
I understand from speaking by telephone with Mr. Taylor (today) that the
text is accurate, even though the memorandum per se is not yet a matter of
the formal public record.

I read the memorandum to imply that forcing Internet commerce to adhere to
the intent and spirit of the ADA would negatively impede the economic growth
of the nation.  I disagree such a conclusion.

Some of the reasoning seems logically flawed to me.  The case is made that
textual equivalents (description and captioning) for multimedia video and
audio will negatively impact the bandwidth currently available for dial-up
access to the Internet.  This is a contradictory argument since text (which
is accessible to nearly everyone) is tiny compared to video and audio data
streams, which do make it harder for citizens and consumers to actually get
to content.

I feel obligated to point out that it is the considered opinion of informed
experts that creating accessible web sites does NOT impose any sort of undue
burden.  Please reference "Does it cost more to make a site accessible?" at
URL:
http://www.w3.org/1999/05/WCAG-REC-fact#cost

It is actually in the enlightened economic self-interest for private
industry to follow universal design principals with regard to web based
content.  To do otherwise ignores not only the economic buying power of
persons with disabilities, but also rich folks with expensive toys Internet
surfing with their cell phones, car dashboard, and other high-tech gadgetry.
Please reference "Selfish Reasons for Accessible Web Authoring" at URL:
http://aware.hwg.org/why/selfish.html

As you are well aware, individuals and businesses often need laws to "do the
right thing", even when that "right thing" is in ones own best interest in
the long run.  I think it is hard to ignore the incredibly positive impact
of the ADA.  I don't "need" curb cuts and television closed captioning, but
I use both everyday, and I am extremely grateful to the ADA for them.
Anyone who bicycles or has children who are learning to read is just as
appreciative, even if they are not aware that people with disabilities are
the ones to thank.

I have taken the liberty to courtesy copy this letter to the World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Interest Group and to
Mr. Taylor.

Maintaining electronic curb cuts is too important to too many people.  The
Blind might be the first group to thank you, but they won't be the last.  I
predict that, years from now, analysts will credit groups like the W3C WAI,
and those that supported them, with contributing greatly to the economic
growth of our "e-commerce" infrastructure by advocating for standards and
structures that forced the Internet to remain "machine readable" and kept it
as an "information medium" that was distinct from television and other
purely graphical media.

I am sure you will hear from others who can argue these points much more
lucidly and pervasively than I.  It is an important issue.  I work closely
with consumers who have significant disabilities.  I have a strong
background with universal design and accessible media.  I felt obligated to
contact you with regard to this memorandum and to share my view and
experience.  Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Bruce Bailey
Webmaster for the Maryland State Division of Education (MSDE) Division of
Rehabilitation Services (DORS)
Maryland Rehabilitation Center
2301 Argonne Drive
Baltimore, MD  21218-1696
http://www.dors.state.md.us/
410/554-9211
Received on Thursday, 20 January 2000 16:33:48 GMT

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