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

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 21:09:12 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <200010212009.VAA05452@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> The problem for many disabled users isn't the commercial sites, but the
> information sites that are too often all text with no illustrating graphics
> of any kind and the reading level of the text is too high for the averagely
> educated individual. Government sites, and sites to exchange information on

This is not a problem associated with the web.  The same problem happens
with paper documents.  I don't know the situation in the USA, but in the
UK, there have been attempts for quite a long time to use clear language
in official documents, and they are definitely better than they used to be.
I can't give a reference for the before case, but you could try looking
at the PDFs of the explanations of the tax forms on

Making such documents completely clear can be difficult as it can lead to
people breaking the law because they generalise and don't realise they 
are out of their depth (or alternatively make people operate with too
large safety margins).  Writing legislation that is not open to arbitrary
interpretation by those determined to misinterpret seems impossible even
with precise technical language.

> disability "rights" are the worst! Is it OK for a cognitively disabled
> users to be turned aside by the IRS site (as an example), but not alright
> for a blind user to have to use alt-text? Seems to me it's time for users
> whose basic needs are met to step aside and let unserved users fill their
> plate. 

That aspect is attacked because it is one of the cheapest things to do,
but is still not done on most web sites.  The lack of alt text is a pretty
good indicator that the site was designed with absolutely no thought
to accessiblity.  Alt text also pre-supposes the use of graphics!
Things like alt text actually tend to be singled out by government
agencies because they can be tested objectively, which means that they
can be used for contract compliance and the organisation can be sure that
it is legally safe.

What I've noticed on sites that ought to fall into your category is
that they copy the practices of commercial web sites, rather than using
graphics to actually help the user.  Graphics are relatively expensive to
do; flashy graphics are particularly so, at least when they are not
standard clips or word art from standard packages.  These sites are
wasting limited resources on non-productive graphics which could have
gone on clearer wording or graphics that truly supported the text -
actually scans of hand drawn sketches might actually be as effective
and considerably cheaper than flashy graphics - a line drawing encoded
as two colour GIF or PNG is actually quite small, even when hand drawn.

The reason that public service sites emulate commercial sites, in my
view, is not because they actually think about the design aims, but
because a lot of web design is done by plagiarism.  People copy other
peoples effects without either understanding how they work or thinking
about their appropriatness.  The other issue is that many of the
designers may be hoping for better paid jobs in commerce.

You may think that someone with a message must spend all that is needed
to get the message across, but that is not how the world works; if the 
standards are set too high, the message doesn't get sent at all.  If the
cost of reading the message is too high, it doesn't get received.

If you showed that you understood that nearly all commercial sites use
graphics in a way that doesn't help understanding, you might get more
sympathy, but you seem to want no rules at all.
Received on Saturday, 21 October 2000 16:30:42 UTC

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