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RE: A new iconography? (was:How to convince businesses to be accessible...)

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 07:49:56 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 10:58 PM 10/17/00 -0700, Charles F. Munat wrote:
>The list to which you've been posting is a list concerning accessibility on
>the Web. Yet, to my mind, you seem more interested in promoting graphics and
>multimedia, accessibility be damned.

Charles, if you have been reading my posts for a while, you should have
noticed that my interest in accessibility is for the web to be accessible
to all people with disabilities including those who depend on graphics and
multi-media to make the web usable. Mostly, I participate in the w3c-gl
list, but since I started on the w3c-ig list with my quest, I return here
from time to time to help one or another person here understand that
accessibility must include and direct graphics and multimedia because they
are essential to folks with learning, reading, and cognitive disabilities.
I am working with a broader definition of what accessibility means, and who
it can help. 

For many years I was a teacher to learning disabled and cognitively
disabled teenagers. The internet was useful in providing e-mail which
enabled some students to build their skills so they could join their
classmates in regular classes. But as a source of informtion, the Internet
was useless then, and still often is, when graphics and multi-media are
avoided. Currently, I am a teacher at a school for k-2nd graders and my
mission is to find uses of the internet for instruction to these children.
To be useful at all, a web site must, as a minimum, have some graphics to
convey the information, and multi-media presentations are even better. Most
text on pages is useless with these children, since it must be read to
them, and often, regurgitated for their understanding. 

I am not "against" accessibility, but am interested in expanding
accessibility to include those who are flummoxed by pages without graphics,
who depend on the multi-media constantly under development, to make the web
happen for them. Worrying about bandwidth and download time aren't
accessibility issues, and when they are mentioned as such, they are
divisive in the overall goal of accessibility. 

	As to the web pages that you say reflect the "ego" of the designer, I'd
suggest you look further and find out who the designer is designing for.
You may be throwing out the baby with the bath water. 


	PS: To constantly belittle those who design in multi-media and graphics is
never going to get this group anywhere close to acceptance by those very
people you are supposed to be addressing. 

>I build web sites for a living. My experience is that fancy, high-tech
>graphics have a lot more to do with the designer's ego (or with marketing's
>desire to manipulate) than with usability. And all of the research I've seen
>seems to back that experience up. While I agree that careful use of graphics
>and multimedia can enhance the ability of a site to convey information,
>let's be honest: that is by far the exception. The rule is that such
>"enhancements" most often detract from the usability of the site.
>When cable TV first arrived in the mid-1970's, we were promised "one hundred
>channels of commercial-free content." Have you watched TV lately? I don't
>have one, but I've seen my sister's satellite TV: 100+ channels of crap.
>Many of those channels are nothing more than 24-hour "infomercials." But
>boy, the special effects are great!
>Over the past 50 years, the state-of-the-art in audio-video has advanced in
>orders of magnitude. Have all these great special effects resulted in better
>TV? Better radio? Better movies? Hell, better magazines? For just one
>example, compare today's "infotainment" news shows to the kind of news
>Walter Cronkite reported during the Vietnam war. This is advancement? I
>remember black-and-white documentaries from the 60's that provided more
>information in the first ten minutes than most current efforts manage in two
>hours of color special effects!
>As I see it, the Web is rapidly becoming nothing more than interactive-TV,
>and as with TV, the medium is being deliberately dumbed-down for the sake of
>marketing. In ten years--mark my words--the Web will be the same vapid
>wasteland that TV is today. Probably sooner.
>So when you say "Fails? Fails, what?" I say "Read what he said." Multimedia
>"more often than not" fails because FAILS: because it doesn't download,
>because it can't be viewed or heard, because it plain doesn't work. What on
>earth does the popularity of heavy graphics sites have to do with it? With
>whom, exactly, are these sites popular? Certainly not with those limited to
>28k modems and dial-up connections, which includes a great many people in
>rural areas both in the U.S. and elsewhere. And are these sites popular
>because of the multimedia content or in spite of it? Given two sites equal
>in all respects except that one uses "word art when plain text would carry
>the same information" and "large quantities of multimedia for atmosphere,"
>can you provide any evidence to show that the slower-to-download,
>multi-media heavy site would be more popular? Have you any examples at all?
>I think that your arguments have more to do with ideology than with
>accessibility. And I think that your ideology is a market ideology: To wit,
>the only people who count are those with buying-power. After all, who has
>the high-bandwidth connections? Certainly not the poor. So, hey, let's build
>lots of multimedia-heavy sites, and when told that the poor are starving for
>bandwidth we'll reply, "Let them watch TV!"
>I think somewhat differently. I think that special effects, graphic design,
>and multimedia are most often used as a crutch, or perhaps more accurately,
>as smoke and mirrors. They are used to distract us, to prevent us from
>realizing that the site/show/movie we are viewing really has nothing of
>value to say. That's a great benefit when your goal is to sell people more
>junk they don't really want or need, but it is terribly harmful when your
>goal is to educate or to build community: It is a tale told by an idiot,
>full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Fool that I am, I want to use
>the Web to undo some of the damage wrought by television, not to exacerbate
>Forgive me if I've misread your intentions, but after rereading your posts,
>I'm pretty sure I haven't.
>Here's my view:
>Multimedia should be:
>1. The last resort, not the first;
>2. Used only if it enhances communication;
>3. Used only if the information conveyed is available to all. If that means
>duplicating the information, so be it. And if it's too expensive to do it
>accessibly, then it's to expensive to do it at all.
>Furthermore, when multimedia is used, it should be optimized to the greatest
>extent possible to provide the most bang for the byte. On a games site where
>nothing of importance is conveyed, bandwidth-intensive multimedia might be
>fine, but on a news site or any other site containing important information,
>it should be used only when it meets the above criteria.
>I'm all for high-bandwidth. I think that the governments of the world should
>subsidize high-bandwidth connections for the poor of every nation. But then
>I also think that we should feed them, clothe them, and provide them with
>medical care, shelter, and education, so perhaps I'm unrealistic. I'm also
>for a constitutional amendment (and the equivalent in other nations)
>guaranteeing equal access to all, both on and off line. Maybe I'm just plain
>Crazy or not, I'm smart enough to know that none of the above are likely to
>happen anytime soon. Until they do, I favor lean, clean,
>aesthetically-pleasing, content- and information-packed, user-friendly,
>non-commercial, accessible-to-all sites free of gratuitous special effects
>and graphic-design-for-the-designer's-sake.
>Just my two cents. Pardon my interruption. Please continue with your
>Charles F. Munat,
>Seattle, Washington
Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Wednesday, 18 October 2000 07:03:01 UTC

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