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

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 11:32:09 -0700
To: "'Anne Pemberton'" <apembert@crosslink.net>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000701c039fa$e4d140e0$b021e7d8@aries>
Anne Pemberton wrote:

"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."

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I do not see how restricting access
for those with low-bandwidth connections or older technology constitutes "a
broader definition of what accessibility means." And while I commend you for
trying to help the rest of us on this list to understand the importance of
graphics, I'm not sure to whom you are referring. Is there anyone on this
list who thinks that a text-only site is better than a site with graphics? I
think not. What many here have argued is that the graphics should not be
gratuitous, and more specifically, that text should be text and not
text-in-graphics. How exactly does making a picture of text enhance its

Most of the sites I've seen that use Flash or Shockwave or Java to "enhance"
the user's experience use it for marketing purposes. What does this have to
do with learning, reading, or cognitive disabilities? And while I'm sure
that pictures can help, I have grave doubts about how helpful multimedia is.
When I was a child, multimedia was called "filmstrips." For the most part we
listened to the teacher, read, looked at pictures, and discussed. And we did
homework. Today's kids have far more technology at their fingertips. But are
they any smarter? Have you read the studies?

Television is a prime example of "multimedia." Certainly, television has the
capability to help us to better understand our world. But after a half
century of TV, we've become less knowledgeable, not more so.

This thread began as "How to convince businesses to be accessible . . . "
All this talk about multimedia benefiting those with cognitive disabilities
is really a red herring. This isn't about helping people with disabilities
to learn more. Is anyone on this list suggesting that we shouldn't build
sites to help those with cognitive disabilities? Of course not. But the
Internet is not a substitute for good teachers or for cultural values.
Helping children to learn is important, but far more important is ensuring
that all adults have an equal opportunity to participate in society. The
"digital divide" is no joke, and bandwidth and download time are most
emphatically accessibility issues.

No, this is about giving corporations the go ahead (not that they're waiting
for it) to load up their Web sites with hype and marketing flash. Business
wants to sell us, and they know that you do not sell with reason, but by
persuading people to suspend reason. That's hard to do with text alone. But
add thumps and roars and moving, colorful graphics and suddenly people are
mesmerized. And, hey, it's especially wonderful for selling sugary cereals,
soda pop, violent video games, and even cigarettes to kids.

Business cares about one thing: profit. There are no altruistic businesses.
And the only way businesses are going to make their Web sites accessible is
when not doing so affects the bottom line. You can try to sell them on the
"buying power" of the disabled community. Good luck. In my opinion, the only
way they'll be convinced to build accessible Web sites is the same way they
were convinced to build accessible facilities: with regulation and public

And for those who will shriek that regulation will stymie the growth of the
Internet, I say: Oh, please! Business recognizes a gold mine when it sees
one. The Web has become a juggernaut, and nothing, NOTHING, is going to stop
it now.

As participation in the public debate in our society becomes more and more
dependent on Internet access, and as sites become more bandwidth-intensive,
those without Internet connections or with limited bandwidth will become
further disenfranchised. And isn't that the real goal of accessibility - to
allow every adult full citizenship in our society?

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Thursday, 19 October 2000 14:53:11 UTC

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