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[Fwd: Addition to the Record of the House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Internet and ADA by Gregg Van]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 10:32:35 -0500
Message-ID: <38AAC313.B4A72E76@clark.net>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Addition to the Record of the House Judiciary Subcommittee
Hearing on Internet and ADA by Gregg Van
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 17:14:49 -0600
From: "Gregg Vanderheiden" <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
Reply-To: uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu
To: "Uaccess-L (E-mail)" <uaccess-l@trace.wisc.edu>

Proposed Addition to the Record
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on the Constitution
February 9, 2000
Oversight Hearing on
"The Applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
to Private Internet Sites"

To:  	Chairman Charles T. Canady

From:	Gregg C. Vanderheiden, Ph.D.
	Director, Trace R&D Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Date:	February 14, 2000

RE: Points of Information and Clarification
Regarding House Subcommittee Hearing on Internet and ADA

I spoke with you after the hearing last week, providing information on
of the topics and questions raised during the hearing.  As per our
discussion, I am sending this follow-up note so that the information
can be
included in the formal record of the hearing.  These notes simply
repeat or
elaborate on the topics we discussed after the hearing.

For your records I am Gregg C. Vanderheiden, Ph.D., Professor in the
Industrial Engineering Department, and Director of the Trace Research
Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.    I am the
principal investigator for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research
Center on
Information Technology Access, funded by the National Institute on
Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. 
also work with the Partners for Advanced Computational Infrastructure
Program funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Trace R&D Center focuses on ways to make standard information
and telecommunication systems more accessible for people with all
types of
Trace works closely with the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative and I
co-chair and co-edit the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines.  I
was also a member of the Electronic and Information Technology Access
Advisory Council (EITAAC) of the US Access Board.


Clarification on the use of graphics and color on web pages:
The Web Accessibility Guidelines do NOT discourage the use of
icons or color.  In fact they encourage the use graphics.

Another area of inquiry at the hearing that was not clearly covered
whether the Web Accessibility Guidelines allow the use of graphics, or
discourage their use.   The answer is that graphics, icons or color
are not
barriers to accessibility.  In fact, the Web Accessibility Guidelines
encourage the use of graphics.  They make the web easier for many
individuals with different types of disabilities (as well as other
The guidelines do say, however, that where information is presented
graphic form, that the information should also be available in text
form and
that information that is conveyed with color should also be available
another way.

It should be noted that this alternative text (which has been required
the past 2 years as part of standard HTML) is usually invisible to a
who has graphics turned on.  Thus the use of alternative text  would
alter the appearance of the web page at all.  The text only appears
when the
graphics are turned off (or before the graphics are loaded). 
the text is also visible to search engines, which makes the pages
easier to
find using search engines.  It is also useful to anyone using phone
browsers, or with slow Internet connections.

The phrase which Chairman Canady sought clarification on in the
("at least one mode that minimizes the cognitive and memory ability
of the users")   is not from the web accessibility guidelines.

During the hearing clarification was sought (but not received) on
the web accessibility guidelines require web sites to provide at least
mode of presentation that minimizes the cognitive and memory ability
required of users.

The answer is no.  This requirement is not part of the W3C Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines or requirements proposed by EITAAC for the
content.   Rather, the statement referred to above is from the EITAAC
general guidelines that apply to all electronic and information
That clause is meant to cover a wide range of products, from copiers
phones.     The clause from the EITAAC report that addresses web
accessibility (and would be used to interpret any general guidelines)
located lower in the report and specifies the use of Priority 1 and 2
guidelines (only)of  the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The appropriate EITAAC report item for web access is: Web content shall conform with level 'Double-A', satisfying
Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints, of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0' available at
The language in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that applies
this is:

14.  Ensure that documents are clear and simple so they may be more
	14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's
content. [Priority 1]

(There are also two Priority 3 guidelines in the W3C guidelines for
area.   However the EITAAC did not include any Priority 3 items in its
recommendations so they would not be included.:   - 14.2  Supplement
with graphic or auditory presentations where they will facilitate
comprehension of the page. [Priority 3]  and    - 14.3  Create a style
presentation that is consistent across pages. [Priority 3] ")

Clarification on "One size fits all" misunderstanding :
Providing web accessibility is an additive process not a substitute.

Clarification was sought during the hearings as to whether web
requires a "One-size-fits-all"  or  " least-common-denominator"

Neither of these approaches is required or recommended by the
In fact the guidelines specifically caution against that approach.  
the guidelines recommend that  pages be created in a flexible way that
allows users with different constraints  to be able to view and use
content.  (This includes both those who have a disability and those
that are
just using mobile technologies like phones to access the web).

Clarification on Web proscriptions regarding format:
The Web Accessibility Guidelines do not restrict the way information
on the
Web is presented.

A common misunderstanding is that accessibility regulations restrict
the way
information on the web is presented.  There are no guidelines or
that outlaw t a particular form or technology from be used to present
information on the web.  The closest thing that will be found is a
recommendation that W3C technologies or other technologies developed
in an
open fashion be used.  However, this is not a requirement, and the
guidelines simply state that if other non-accessible technologies are
that the information be available in some accessible fashion as well.

11. Use W3C technologies (according to specification) and follow
accessibility guidelines. Where it is not possible to use a W3C
or doing so results in material that does not transform gracefully,
an alternative version of the content that is accessible.

In most cases, the alternate accessible form is a short text phrase
only appears if requested.

Clarification on cost of accessibility as a barrier to companies:
High Cost = Undue Burden = Not Required

During the hearing, a concern was raised regarding whether companies
be forced to tear down their websites or carry out extreme or

First - it should be noted that the vast majority of all information
services on the web can be made accessible for something on the order
00.01% to 01% of the cost of creating and providing the information or
service in the first place - especially if accessibility is addressed
the beginning of development.  This would be far below any  likely
determination of an "undue burden" threshold.

For those situations where excessive effort is required for some
reason or
portion of the site the "undue burden"  clause would come into effect.

Again - it should be noted that in almost all cases, making web sites
services accessible to people with disabilities also makes them more
to people (without disabilities) who use small pocket computers, PDAs,
phone browsers, and other mobile browsing technologies.

Common misunderstanding:  No Need for Regulation because Industry is
Doing It

The question was raised as to whether regulation was needed - or
industry was already working on access.

A couple of observations can help to shed some light on this question.
First - it should be remembered, that all of the companies working on
accessible web technologies, websites, etc., in any serious and
fashion are aware of the ADA, and most are aware of the Justice
ruling. Thus there is already a regulatory motivation in effect.  
it is known that many of these companies would reduce their efforts
significantly if there were no mandates and they knew that there would
be no
future mandates for the accessibility of their material.

An interesting parallel to this was observed with Section 508 the
first time
it came out.  Section 508 required that computers and information
purchased by the government be accessible to people with
disabilities.  A
number of companies began gearing up accessibility efforts.  Employees
within companies told their management about the regulations and the
they should be creating more accessible products to better compete for
government contracts.  Later, when the initial 508 was only
enforced and companies were not seeing accessibility provisions
showing up
in government RFPs, I began receiving calls from company employees
that their companies were scaling back accessibility efforts as a
result of
the lax enforcement of the regulations.

I have heard similar rumblings with regard to Internet companies'
if the Internet were suddenly to be declared an
accessibility-regulation-free environment.

Clarification and Information on Economic Motivation.

Several presenters suggested that economic motivations might cause
to make their technologies accessible even without any regulation. 
Trace Center has done extensive work with industry (including building
access features into standard products) and has not found this to be
case.  Trace has also just completed a three-year study looking at why
companies do or do not incorporate accessibility features into their
product line.  This research also supports the position that companies
not engage in substantive, long term accessibility efforts across
their main
mass-market products in the absence of either regulation or the fear

Although other (non-regulatory) motivations have led to particular
or caused features to appear, these efforts have not been maintained
applied across product lines.   Companies also often provide
access features for a product but omit other key access features
in a product that is only partially useful or useful only for people
some disabilities.   Unfortunately, the piece that they do not provide
access to is sometimes the "front door".  In the context of the web
appears as web site that is largely accessible except that a person
use any of it because a few pages at the front are impassible.

Even when access is easy to implement it is very hard to accomplish in
absence of a strong motivator.  Everyone in these companies is so busy
they are only getting to those things that are absolute financial
or absolute necessities.  Side markets, additional markets, diverse
(such as people with disabilities) often end up on the list of
things to do" that people never get to.

This is best illustrated by a story once told to me by a vice
president of a
large technology corporation.

It started when he asked me, "Why don't you just pass a law that
requires us
to do this."  After asking him to repeat what he said, I told him how
surprised we were to hear him say that and asked him why he said it. 
said, "Two reasons".

"First," he said, "I think this is a really important thing for us to
doing.  I only wish that I could present it to my colleagues as well
as you
did.  Be that as it may, I'm going to take these materials back, and
going to set it right on top of my desk as a very important thing to
However, also on my desk will be about six other stacks.  Furthermore,
of them are likely to be smoking, and one of them is going to be on
I'll start putting out the fire, and one of the smoking stacks will
into flame and another one will start smoking.  I will spend the rest
today putting out the fires and hopefully a couple smokers.  When I go
tonight, I'm likely to still have a couple smokers.  And in the
morning my
secretary will bring in four more stacks - at least one of which will
be on
fire and one of which will be smoking.  This is the way the rest of
week, the month, and the year will go.  A year from now, your
materials will
still be sitting on the corner of my desk.  It will still be just as
important -- and I'll still be putting out fires.  It's just the way
my job

"But if you pass a law that says our company must do this, then your
will start to smoke...." (he paused for effect...)

"Also, if you pass a law, you solve another problem for us.  Things
are so
competitive in our industry that we are afraid to ever take time out
to work
on anything that we don't know that our competitors are also looking
(unless it will let us leapfrog them in the market).  If you pass a
law that
says we all have to do this, then we don't need to be afraid to take
out to address these issues - even if it is small."

That company was a not an Internet company but his analysis sounds to
even more true in the area of internet.

Disclosure Statement:   "I am a professor at the University of
Wisconsin and
direct a research and development center with funding from the US
of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation
the US National Science Foundation, and industry.  Last year I was
asked by
the National Federation of the Blind if I would consult with them in
complaint against America On-Line.   I agreed to consult, and I have
had one
phone call with NFB staff on this matter back in November 1999 and
since.  At the time I told them that I would also be available to
questions for AOL should they ask.   Also, I had asked that any fees
might be involved be donated directly to charity - so I have no
interest in that case. The views expressed in this statement reflect
those of the author and do not represent the views of the federal
or any other entities.

Respectfully Submitted

Gregg C Vanderheiden Ph.D.

Received on Wednesday, 16 February 2000 10:32:53 UTC

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