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Re: Labelling web page functionality for blind users

From: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 17:08:17 -0800 (PST)
Message-Id: <200002170108.RAA17736@netcom.com>
To: phoenixl@netcom.com, unagi69@concentric.net
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Hi, Gregory

I'm afraid you seem very stuck on structured content.  While that is useful,
in many ways, it ignores the interactive aspects.  There is a big difference
between a magazine page and a web page.  Both have structure, but it is the
interaction that is a significant difference.  Blind users interact
with web pages very differently than sighted people.  If you think the
interactive needs of blind users and sighted users are the same, I have
various experiments which can show differences.

Second, while all blind people are not the same, many of them often
share similar needs.  Again, I have experiments which have indicated
there are frequently shared needs.  If you would like, I can show them
to you.  Which experiments have you done to show that there are no
over-lapping needs among many blind users?  I would direct you to the
documentation on user-centered design.  A fundamental assumption is that
group of users can have some traits in common which is a key principle
of this design process.  Why would the user-centered design work
for a wide variety of groups of people and not groups of blind users?
What is so special about blind people that none of the user-center
design would apply to them?

Actually, many of my comments come from watching and conversing with
blind users rather than just intellectualizing.

In a way, you are making assumptions which may have no basis.
You are intellectualizing without doing observations, experiments or

What is it that a blind user wants?  I would agree he wants access to the
information provided on a page.  I would argue that getting the information
with efficiency and accuracy is also important.  I don't see many
blind people going around demanding structured content.  Structured content
may be a way to achieve these other more important goals, but in truth
it is not as important.  I have not had the experience of having a blind
person complain to me over coffee about a web page being without structured
content.  They were ticked off because they were having problems understanding
the page or using the page easily.

With regards to the demo web pages, most of the feedback I've gotten from
blind users is that it made using the web page easier for many of them.
I believe the core design principles would benefit many blind users,
though not all.  It is an example of many members of a user groups sharing
some common needs.

Actually, the revenue issue is probably not that important to the
provider in this case.  If they really were concerned, they would have
much better descriptions in the ALT tags to attract the blind users'
attention.  I believe you might be confusing what is more important and
what is less important.  For example, for web sites where revenuse from
advertising is not important, the issue you brought up about revenue
does not impact the application of the design principles for these web pages.
For web pages where advertising revenue is important, the advertising
links could be moved more to the beginning of the page or some other

The problem with restructuring is that it puts much too great of a burden
on the user.  I believe we have already gone around about this.  Most blind
users probably do not want to learn how to restructure web pages.
As I have said before, for many blind users restructuring is a very
bad alternative.  Given a choice between learning to restructure
web pages or winning money at poker, which do you think most blind users
would prefer to do?  Personally, I've never restructured a web page.
If most sighted people don't have to do that, why should blind
people be forced into it.

In a way, you remind me of some of the graduate students I work with.
They come up with various ideas and they don't understand why the
people in the real world with families, jobs, etc, would not want
to put in the time and effort to learning the complexities of something.

Actually, I've had three different companies approach me about how easy
would it be to implement my approach to dynamically generated web pages.
I've also written the software in both Java and Perl which does it.
The basic code was done in a day.  It ain't that hard.


> on the GL list, scott luebking asked me:
> quote
> Suppose that you were appearing before a congressional sub-committee.How 
> would you argue before them why no functionality provided on web pages 
> should be labelled as being appropriate for blind users? Why would this be 
> of benefit to most blind web users of various levels of computer/web 
> sophistication?
> unquote
> to which i reply (on the WAI-IG list, as per the request of the GL listowners)
> first of all, i'm not exactly sure what you mean by quote How would you 
> argue before them why no functionality provided on web pages should be 
> labelled as being appropriate for blind users? unquote, but since ignorance 
> has seldom stopped me from airing my views in the past, let me attempt to 
> answer your question...
> quite simply, what is needed by _all_ users is structured content...  the 
> user should be the one to decide how the content is presented, not the 
> server...  my main complaint with your server-side solution to 
> accessibility is that it is based on categories that are far too 
> broad...  is there really such an overlap between the needs slash desires 
> of collections of individuals who happen to share a singular trait, such as 
> quadriplegia or blindness?   i'm not convinced that there is, but since i 
> do not presume to speak on behalf of other disabled individuals, i will 
> limit my remarks to blindness...
> my first objection to your approach is your use of the term quote blind 
> unquote as an all-encompassing classification...  your approach (as 
> articulated on the WAI-IG and GL lists) is based not upon the needs of 
> individual users, but upon an intellectualization of what it means to be 
> blind and what a blind person might want most out of a specific site, and 
> _that_ is the unreasonable burden your solution places on a site's 
> administrator when you tell him or her to tailor content according to 
> disability type...
> so, since there is no such thing as a prototypical slash stereotypical 
> blind user, were i appearing before a congressional sub-committee, it would 
> be quite easy for me to argue against a blindness-specific solution for 
> accessing content from a specific web site, as -- i have pointed out in the 
> past -- what works for me, as someone who was fully sighted until the age 
> of 20 may be vastly different for what works for someone who lost their 
> sight at a more advanced age, and will probably be quite different from 
> what works for someone who has never had any usable vision or someone who 
> lost his or her sight during their adolescence...  similarly, what works 
> for a braille reader may be quite different from someone who lacks the 
> requisite tactile sensitivity to feel braille...
> the only common denominator between the types of person listed in the above 
> paragraph is their inability to see -- to categorize them simply as quote 
> blind unquote, and to serve them content based upon such a broad 
> characterization, ignores the vast differences between each individual, and 
> their individual modes of perception and comprehension, which is why i 
> vehemently oppose labeling quote accessibility solutions unquote by 
> disability type...
> what the blind user wants is access to all of the content that is being 
> served up to visitors using the browser or set of browsers for which the 
> site has been tailored, or which are best capable of rendering the content 
> produced by the specific authoring tool being used to construct and 
> maintain the site...  what the blind user needs is 1) structured content, 
> 2) browser- and OS-neutral content, and 3) a wizard (or shopping cart) type 
> interface which allows that user the ability to pick and choose what 
> constitutes that user's personal stylesheet, as well as user agents that 
> fully support CSS, as well as other W3C recommendations that have been (to 
> borrow a phrase from CAST) quote approved for accessibility unquote, not a 
> solution imposed from above, based upon a criterion as general as "blind"
> the real debate isn't over labelling, however -- it is over where control 
> over the presentation of content properly lies -- on the server or the 
> client side...
> in a post to the GL list, dated 11 january 2000, and archived at:
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-gl/2000JanMar/0027.html
> you asked me to:
> quote
> Look at the issue of what would make web pages easier to use for people 
> with upper arm limitations like myself.  While it may not be possible to 
> solve the problem for all people with upper arm limitations, there can be 
> enough in common that providing appropriate features on web pages could be 
> useful.  I believe denying everyone with upper arm limitations because not 
> all is provided is not reasonable.  Would you want to go into a room of 
> people with upper arm limitations and tell them that you believe they would 
> be better served by denying them all the benefits of
> such features since not all people with upper arm limitations will 
> benefit?  (Personally, I would be as pissed as hell.)  Does this really 
> make any sense?  Would people be opposed to web pages saying they have 
> special features for people with upper arm limitations?
> unquote
> in a long postponed and ultimately unsent reply, i wrote:
> i'm not trying to restrict anyone's interaction with web content -- quite 
> the contrary, i, like you and everyone else who is participating in the 
> WAI, am trying to remove any such restrictions...  my concern with your 
> approach is that it involves the imposition of a solution from above upon 
> individuals, rather than enhancing each individual's ability to control the 
> presentation slash reordering of the structure in which the content is 
> contained in whatever modality that individual chooses...
> the key words are: content and structure...
> what i want shipped to me, plain and simple, is consistently and logically 
> structured content...  by logically structured, i mean that semantics have 
> been utilized in the classification and contextualization of the structure 
> the author is attempting to convey...  the problem with most web content is 
> a total lack of structure, and it is structure that provides the framework 
> upon which to build individually-tailored presentations of web-based content...
> while i personally do like the restructuring of the deja news output that 
> you posted in your private web space, do you actually think that the 
> sponsoring organization, which relies upon advertising revenue, would 
> permit the placement of advertisements at the bottom of the page, where 
> there is a greater than 90 percent chance that the content of the 
> advertisements will never be read,  _before_ the page is sent to the user?
> a more practical solution would be to encourage a site such as deja news to 
> use more consistent (and proper) structure -- there isn't, for example, a 
> single header on the page, which makes it difficult to navigate by 
> structure, if one's adaptive equipment or user agent supports structured 
> navigation, and/or the ability to jump directly to the first header on a 
> page...
> again, it all starts with content and structure -- yes, the user should 
> (and, in my opinion, must) be given the ability to restructure according to 
> his or her needs), but in order for information to be re-structured, it 
> must first contain some sort of structure, and the more semantically 
> sensible that structure, the easier it will be to re-structure according to 
> individual needs...
> only in an educational setting, i believe, could one expect the server to 
> perform the sort of transformation that you so skillfully performed on the 
> deja news results page mounted at:
> http://members.aol.com/criptrip/dynamic_web_pages
> with the express purpose of tailoring content for a single-browser campus 
> or course, but that is -- in my opinion -- still the wrong approach to the 
> problem...  information needs structure in order for it to be of any 
> utility to anybody, and i, personally, would not want someone _else_ 
> deciding _for_ me how the page should be structured simply based upon the 
> fact that i am totally blind...
> which is why i continue to argue that restructuring needs to be done on the 
> client, rather than the server side...
> yes, writing one's own stylesheet and performing transformations upon page 
> content is intimidating, but i have been consistently asking 
> representatives of mainstream UA manufacturers who implement CSS and offer 
> the user the choice of using a local style sheet, to provide a wizard-type 
> mechanism with which users without any knowledge of CSS can construct 
> stylesheets that work for _them_, not that which i, you, or any entity 
> decides is most appropriate for them, based upon one characteristic out of 
> the hundreds that comprise an individual...  yes, my inability to see 
> influences my perception of the world that surrounds me, but it is not the 
> sole arbiter of reality -- my perception of the world in which i operate is 
> as colored by my 20 years of functioning as an extremely visually-oriented 
> individual as it is by leaps of faith, intellectualization, and 
> extrapolation ...
> my identity is in no way based upon my disability -- neither should the 
> content which i choose to peruse...
> gregory
Received on Wednesday, 16 February 2000 20:08:21 UTC

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