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Re: belittling designers, two kinds of accessibility

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 07:50:51 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: "Hiroshi Kawamura" <hkawa@attglobal.net>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: <daisy@jsrd.or.jp>

	Thanks for the affirmation. I've never seen a SMIL application that works
for this group, so I'm excited that you are developing a textbook using
this approach. I have seen what Flash can do, but not SMIL ... 


At 09:35 AM 10/20/00 +0900, Hiroshi Kawamura wrote:
>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
Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Friday, 20 October 2000 07:04:03 UTC

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