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Re: belittling designers, two kinds of accessibility

From: Hiroshi Kawamura <hkawa@attglobal.net>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 09:35:55 +0900
Message-ID: <000e01c03a2d$b58f9880$0202a8c0@jsrd.or.jp>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: <daisy@jsrd.or.jp>
Dear Anne:

I am sharing the same interest with you regarding accessibility of web and
other publications for people with cognitive or mental disabilities.
The Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disability is a
member of the DAISY Consortium (www.daisy.org) representing Japan, and has
been working on implementation of DAISY for blindness community in Japan and
developing countries.  In addition to our work for people with visual
impairements, we have been studying the needs of all other "print disabled"
people to adapt DAISY or physically accessible synchronized multimedia as a
technological solution.
We have started to develop DAISY version of "easy to read books" in
cooperation with dyslexia concerned organizations and parents organizations
of people with mental disabilities.  We also produce a trial version of SMIL
textbook of science for the second grade of junior highschool.
I believe that WAI should address the needs of people with cognitive or
mentally disability.  I see the SMIL applications like DAISY is most
promising and practical approach to make the web and all other XML
applications including Digital TV, eBook, WAP, I-mode, etc., accessible to
all at the moment.


Hiroshi Kawamura (hkawa@attglobal.net)
Director, Information Center/JSRPD
Tel: +81-3-5273-0601, Fax:+81-3-5273-1523

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anne Pemberton" <apembert@crosslink.net>
To: "Wayne Myers-Education" <wayne.myers@bbc.co.uk>; <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2000 10:45 AM
Subject: Re: belittling designers, two kinds of accessibility

> Wayne,
>      Your rant wasn't bad, in fact it was informative, though nothing new
> was said, but you said it well.
> The web is probably no longer what was originally envisioned, but the
> original vision was limited and didn't take into account either the
> mushrooming of bandwidth and technology, or the popularity that the web
> gained. At some time in the years to come, the "original" concept of the
> web will go away and the "horseless carriage" as a toy of the privileged
> will be gone ... it's almost there already!
> Unlike most on this list, I am very much "up" on cognitive issues because
> the needs in this area, especially as they affect education, have been my
> career. Because of long-term friendships in the adult disability
> I have kept up with the issues and am part of this debate. I care very
> deeply about the part of the population who labor through life inspite of
> cognitive disabilities - they are friends and family a-many. I am proud of
> each one who conquers the financial and learning hurdles and climbs on
> board the Internet. I know that for each one, there was a different
> a different hope, a different need that brought them to this table. I
> bore this group to tears with specific stories of how things came to be.
> But I cannot say that any one of them came to the web expecting to cherish
> "documents" ... Should they be sent back to tv just because the
> of the web didn't envision they would be here? Perhaps purists can argue
> so, but these people are too real to me for those arguments to have much
> flavor.
> My concern with seeing the cognitive issues included in WAI is because the
> published purpose is to insure the web accommodates all people with
> disabilities. WAI says it promises accessibility to ALL, and, when they're
> not damning business, promise the buying power of ALL disabled persons ...
> therefore, if it's called "accessibility for disabilities", it can't
> some disabilities just because they weren't originally expected to come
> onboard.
> On the gl list there is a member who is both personally disabled
> cogitively, but also works as a teacher to those with more severe
> cognitively disabled. It's likely that a complete "translation" from text
> to icons will sometime be technically possible, but these needs are the
> extreme. The middle stream need is to illustrate text. If this is
> expressed: Every web document would be illustrated to reach the widest
> audience. Saying that document must be illustrated is a long way from
> saying "if you have to put a graphic on your page do this ..." .... It
> should say: "Illustrate your page; do this for each illustration ..."
> Notice it doesn't say "decorate your page" ... Will there be "documents"
> that can't be illustrated? Sure! but is it because the content isn't worth
> the effort?
> I would hope that more commercial sites would look at the IKEA-usa.com
> site suggested to me this morining, and look at the "glitzy" directions to
> put together a bookcase ... add the needed sound, and add a printable
> version, and a basic text version, for every item sold with directions,
> leave it there so the customer could find it every time they needed it
> (instead of cluttering up a drawer full of directions and schematics ...)
> but this is much more than asking for mark-up language ... yet it seems to
> be in the same spirit, at least to me ...
> Anne
> At 07:29 PM 10/19/00 +0100, Wayne Myers-Education wrote:
> >> 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.
> >
> >Argh. Ok. Rant time. Apologies in advance...
> >
> >Here's my take on the problem here, including why those who refuse to
> >certain facts about the web are always going to be belittled, and why I
> >believe there are two kinds of accessibility that require entirely
> >approaches, but which can lead to amusing arguments-without-end between
> >people who conflate the two and confuse the issues.
> >
> >The web is plagued by people who misunderstand it, but who nevertheless
> >build large parts of it.
> >
> >The web is a collection of documents - in the loosest form of the term -
> >which are deliberately constructed in a format which is - by design -
> >supposed to be independent of the way in which those documents are
> >That is what the web is.
> >
> >People who approach the web in terms of multi-media and graphics - and
> >nothing more - are therefore missing the point of the medium. The medium
> >allows people to construct documents that may or may not contain
> >or graphics, but where the inability to view any multi-media or graphics
> >does not stop them from getting the content from the document.
> >
> >The fact that hordes of multi-media and graphics focussed people have
> >misunderstood this and have flooded the web with pages that break the
> >tell you what screen resolution you require, tell you what kind of
> >you require, assume that all users have a certain level of bandwidth in
> >their connection, assume that all users can see, and so on and so on, is,
> >AFAIK, precisely the reason that the WAI was set up.
> >
> >Sites where the content relies upon multi-media and graphics are not
> >websites. They are something else, and they just happen to use web
> >technologies to be distributed. But since they rely on highly specific
> >software/hardware configurations in order to be viewed, they are not
> >websites - whether they claim to be or not (and they usually do). People
> >might say that their content *is* the multi-media and the graphics. Fine.
> >But it's not a web document, even if it uses the web for distribution.
> >Personally, I prefer the multi-media and graphics you can get from real
> >standalone multi-media/graphics fest stuff (such as games machines) and
> >yet to see a 3d environment online that came close to Quake (a popular 3d
> >environment action game where you run around shooting at monsters,
> >or both). The web is the web, and Quake is Quake, and that ought to be an
> >end of it.
> >
> >The reason that people trying to funnel something Quake-like into web
> >get belittled is that anyone working in a medium which they clearly do
> >understand (by their work) is going to cause serious frustration among
> >who do. In other media, there is a threshold of publishing control - of a
> >sort - which means that people who do not understand those media do not
> >to pollute that media space with it. Someone who thinks that 1000 words
> >sufficient for a novel is simply never going to get that 'novel'
> >as a novel. Someone who thinks that text containing nothing but libellous
> >attacks and cuss-words is suitable for publication in a broadsheet
> >is going to find that no editor will publish them (or indeed commission
> >again).
> >
> >On the other hand, someone who thinks its ok to make a large executable
> >requiring a specific plugin containing rotating teapots and so on and who
> >then sells that file to someone in the guise of a 'website', *is* going
> >be able to 'publish' it. More commonly, too many seem to think it's ok to
> >make and sell a 'normal' website using some automatic site creation tool
> >which fails to ensure that the resulting site will work in any but the
> >recent generation of browser software, and then focus on the 'look and
> >of the site in those browsers, without bothering to find out what it will
> >look like in other browsers, on PDAs, through voice portals, screen
> >or whatever other new systems for accessing the web will have been
> >by the time I finish ranting.
> >
> >Since people paying for websites - almost by definition - hardly ever
> >much understanding of quite what they are paying for, rotating teapots
> >the like can easily impress the people with the purse strings; as can
> >'normal' sites presented as flat images. This process can take business
> >from people who actually do know what they are doing, and that is more
> >enough grounds for any belittlement that may be going on here. Such will
> >continue, as will pages like this:
> >
> >http://www.ntk.net/grey.html
> >
> >Meanwhile, the WAI works to make the web back into a document collection
> >where you can access any document in any way and get content back,
> >exception, from wherever, and despite whatever physical barriers have to
> >overcome. This is why the WAI lists largely revolve around discussion of
> >specific ways of marking up documents of different sorts in such a way as
> >guarantee that documents are 'viewable' independently of what equipment
> >used to do so. We call this 'accessibility', and the goal is to work
> >a web where all documents are fully accessible in this sense.
> >
> >Anne's posts and those of some others, over the last while, unless I have
> >seriously misunderstood them, have tended to focus on ways of taking the
> >to a place where you can guarantee that all documents are
> >independently of what (cognitive) equipment is used to do so. That is a
> >highly laudable goal (to a degree), and, confusingly, is also called
> >'accessibility'.
> >
> >However, the two kinds of accessibility are not the same. They operate in
> >different domains - one operates in the domain of things a users gets,
> >one operates in the domain of things a user understands. In consequence,
> >ways in which those goals can be reached are not the same. Conflating the
> >two helps no-one.
> >
> >There is also a deeper difference. There is no reason why the goal of the
> >first kind of accessibility should be impossible. I can conceive - in the
> >abstract - of a system of markup where there was simply no way to produce
> >valid document that was inaccessible - and I am sure that this is the
> >precise direction that the WAI is leading Son-Of-HTML, call it what you
> >will. (I only wish I could be more specific on the details of this
> >system...)
> >
> >However, while it should not and will not stop people working towards it,
> >there seems to be a clear reason why the goal of universal cognitive
> >accessiblility is impossible - at least in terms of the web. While one
> >be able to produce a document system where, similarly, no-one could
> >a document that someone, somewhere, couldn't understand, this would of
> >necessity impose semantic restrictions on the scope of ideas and the
> >of discussion that such documents could contain. Web pages impose no such
> >semantic restrictions.
> >
> >If you worked out a way of restricting the semantic content of web pages
> >order to produce a subset of webpages that everyone could understand,
> >without exception, there would immediately be another set of webpages -
> >the ones that were rejected by your semantic-content restriction schema -
> >which, by definition, would be inaccessible to people that couldn't
> >understand them. This is why I say that the goal of making all webpages
> >cognitively accessible is only highly laudable to a degree, since the
> >way to actually enforce it would be to actually censor anything that was
> >difficult to convert to a universally understandable language of icons
> >non-verbal cues.
> >
> >You might see that as a counsel of despair written by someone who knows
> >nothing about cognitive ability issues. You might suggest that there are
> >documents anywhere that cannot be rewritten so as to be universally
> >understandable, but I think I can come up with a counter example, and
> >suggest that as soon as there is any document anywhere which someone
> >somewhere can't understand - because of the content - then your system
for a
> >web where everyone understands everything has to start banning such
> >documents on the basis of semantic content and content alone. Take
> >
> >http://www.eleves.ens.fr:8080/home/madore/programs/unlambda/#what_looks
> >
> >Unlambda is one of a number of programming languages constructed
> >deliberately to be obfuscated. Unlambda code is deliberately designed to
> >almost impossible to read and understand - even by those people who
> >Unlambda.
> >
> >How would you propose to allow such content in the putative 'web where
> >everyone can understand everything'? If you change it - replace it with a
> >system of icons, say - it is no longer Unlambda, and you have lost the
> >original document in an effectively censorial way. If you just ban it
> >being too hard to process into an iconic format), you are also banning
> >things on the basis of semantic content. Either we are back to what is
> >effectively a subsetting process, where some documents are always going
> >be too hard for some people to understand.
> >
> >Nevertheless, as ever, the real world meets us all somewhere in the
> >and we do need to find ways to make more or less most documents both more
> >less viewable and more or less understandable by more or less everyone.
> >
> >Since they are so different, however, the accessibility of view (what the
> >user gets) and the accessibility of cognition (what the user understands)
> >must be kept seperate from one another. Otherwise we can't achieve either
> >goal. In practice, it is likely that both kinds of accessibility are only
> >going to be partially achievable in the short term. Until there is a form
> >HTML where accessibility of view is guaranteed, accessibility of
> >is likely to take second place, since the former does not step into the
> >dodgy political waters of allowing or disallowing documents on the basis
> >semantic content that the latter does; moreover, the former is at least
> >theoretically possible to universally achieve and the latter is not.
> >
> >I'll shut up now. Sorry to have ranted on...
> >
> >Cheers etc.,
> >
> >Wayne
> >
> >Wayne Myers
> >Software Engineer, BBC Digital Media,
> >Coder/Producer, Betsie Project
> >http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/betsie/
> >020-8752-6116
> >
> >This e-mail, and any attachment, is confidential. If you have received it
> in error, please delete it from your system, do not use or disclose the
> information in any way, and notify me immediately. The contents of this
> message may contain personal views which are not the views of the BBC,
> unless specifically stated.
> >
> >
> Anne L. Pemberton
> http://www.pen.k12.va.us/Pav/Academy1
> http://www.erols.com/stevepem/Homeschooling
> apembert@crosslink.net
> Enabling Support Foundation
> http://www.enabling.org
Received on Thursday, 19 October 2000 20:36:46 UTC

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