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Re: maps and alternate content

From: William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 06:26:44 -0700
Message-ID: <3976FE14.2697CA64@gorge.net>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, webwatch@telelists.com
AG:: "There is the hypothesis that one could present map information
with the outline graphics sensible via haptics..."

WL: The hypotheses in the area of "help the blind" technologies are (and
have been for my decades in the "industry") legion. This one is very
popular among: 1) sighted engineers for whom this is an intuitively
obvious solution; 2) grant seekers who recognize the "sexy" nature of
high-tech gadgetry; 3) granting agencies who've seen ink/airtime devoted
to publicizing awards to test the hypotheses; 4) entrepreneurs who can
raise money to build/exhibit/discuss said gadgets; 5) blind people who
although they have yet to find much use for any of these things don't
want to discourage people who are "only trying to help"; and lastly 6)
an old geezer who delights in puncturing dream balloons.

The most fortuitous outcome of all this is that some blind guys get
token employment, usually as subjects. Hardly a year has passed without
yet another attempt at a "vision substitution system" involving haptic
display of manipulated output of video (in some cases the display is
auditory instead).

All of these efforts seem to this cynic to be based on the notion of a
"cure" for blindness which is traceable (pun intended) to at least
Biblical times but as Mike May's experience makes clear, the "real" cure
(restoration of some vision) isn't as important as sighted (blindless)
folks posit. 

The big advantage of working for accessibility to both the built
environment and the World Wide Web is that it actually produces usable
results. As a recent press release (showing one U.S. presidential 
candidate's Web site failing Bobby/WAVE tests while the other's passes)
indicates, our work is reaching its intended goal - inclusion has become
fashionably PC.

As I visited the sites Al mentioned (CSUN had a few exhibits dealing
with feelie mice) with blind pals (all right - Bill Gerrey, Jason White,
and Gregory Rosmaita) all of this was brought resoundingly home once
more - for about the twentieth time. The devices are briefly amusing and
the idea behind them might even be provocative, but... 

Entire careers have been based on these things yet we *never* see folks
using the gadgets (possibly [probably?] excepting the OptaCon) on which
the millions were spent. Sticks and dogs for mobility, a handful of
Talking Signs for orientation, and LOTS of screen readers and braille
displays for accessibility. The latter's effectiveness as we move into a
"new economy" depends to some measure on our efforts to improve
accessibility and we must keep on keeping on with our eye on the donut,
not on the hole.

-- 
Love.
            ACCESSIBILITY IS RIGHT - NOT PRIVILEGE
http://dicomp.pair.com
Received on Thursday, 20 July 2000 09:27:27 GMT

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