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Re: Accessibility, discrimination, and WCAG 2.0

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 23:49:12 -0400
Message-ID: <39F263B8.4D08D90E@clark.net>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>
CC: "WAI Interest Group (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I have dealt with this quite a bit and you raise some points which I
shall quote below.  NOte, the first point is merely philosophical.

"Charles F. Munat" wrote:
> Viewed in Web terms, if I design a real estate site in a manner that makes
> it inaccessible to the blind, I've discriminated unfairly. Vision or lack of
> same is not relevant to the sale of real estate. On the other hand, if I'm
> building a site to train city bus drivers, is it unfair to deny access to
> the blind? It might be if there were information available not directly
> related to driving a bus, but in the absence of such information, I contend
> that it is not unfairly discriminatory. Blind people do not drive buses.
dp would that this were true.  I can think of a thousand reasons why
this might be unfair.  I might be writing a book.  I might be helping to
train a driver.  I might be studying this in a course setting. ...
> When we are dealing with issues such as vision, hearing, or physical
> disabilities, it is not that difficult to decide when discrimination is
> unfair. But when we get into the realm of cognitive disabilities, things get
> tricky rather quickly.
dp yes, plainly more subjective.
<snipped again>
> I'm not concerned about scaring away giant corporations with the WCAG
> because a) frankly, they can afford it and b) no-one is going to scare them
> away anyway. But I am concerned about pricing small businesses, non-profit
> organizations, and individuals out of the Web. If you think that telling
> people NOT to use graphics is off-putting, try telling them that they MUST
> use graphics.
dp not to mention telling them what graphics to use.
> So what does this have to do with the WCAG? Well, take a look at the current
> working draft of version 2.0:
> http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/WCAG20/WD-WCAG20-20000928
> Pay particular attention to Guideline 3: Design for ease of comprehension.
> There are many items here that give me pause, but to keep this posting to an
> only slightly outrageous length, consider 3.7: Supplement text with graphic
> or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the
> content.
dp can it be more specific?
<snipped a third time>
> A government site intended for the general public might need to
> follow all of these guidelines (and the funds to make that possible should
> be made available). But another site, such as my hypothetical on-line novel,
> might not need to follow any of the suggestions in Guideline 3 to
> satisfactorily serve it's intended audience.
dp The intended audience of the web should be anyone who can get to it. 
There is nothing more exasperating than to come to what for me is a
blank page or a page that says I am using the rong browser or some such
nonsense.  I figure that if it isn't intended for us all, it is wasting
space on the World Wide Web.
> Finally, consider this:
> What if a person with a cognitive disability wants to put up a web site?
> Should he or she be required to comply with the WCAG? (Not an easy
> proposition since the guidelines are text-only and the language is certainly
> not "the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content.")
dp This is my point.  if you are going to produce in a medium, you need
to be able to use the medium.  you learn to use the medium before you
produce in it.  would you ask a person who knows nothing about hair
styling to write a book about it?  or do it?  bad alalogy I know, but it
achieves the purpose of looking at the matter.  any site should follow
accessability guidelines.
> If a blind man builds a web site, does he have to include graphics?
dp Speaking as a blind man, Yes.  the law exempts no one.
>  If a
> deaf woman builds a site, must it include audio?
dp Yes! she does not have to hear it to mark it up.  she can get the
length of the file and the title of the piece and all kinds of info
about it.  This is not a stretch for either the blind man or the deaf
woman because the information is available in a medium that they can
use.  On the other hand, for someone to really build a site who needs
the access that a person with a severe cognative problem needs, would be
a real stretch because developping a site requires some use at least of
text.  This does not however exempt that person from following the
guidelines.  What shall we say.  Oh, I don't have any text on my site
because I don't use text so be forewarned.  We'd have to get someone to
write that one up for us or may we put it in an audio file and or use a
signed audio/video?  I am not making gest here.  I think as a blind
person, I'd be a pitifull excuse for a designer if I said, "I hate
graphics therefore, you won't see any of the little buggers on any page
I write.".
> I don't know that I have the answers to these questions or even that there
> are simple answers. As the current draft of WCAG 2.0 stands, I like section
> 3. I think the suggestions are good suggestions. But I also think that they
> require good powers of, yes, discrimination. I worry about how they may be i
> nterpreted in a world where most people seem to prefer black and white. I
> also wonder how we are going to measure understandability. It is one thing
> to say that site A doesn't work on screen reader B or that site C provides
> visual information not accessible to blind users. How do we decide when a
> site is understandable enough? WCAG 2.0 says "appropriate for a site's
> content," but who decides this?
dp To put this another way, good web design including current
accessability cpractices can be learned and illusrated.  beyond that,
unless you are specially trained in it, It would be mearly if not
impossible to churn out designers that could meet the cognative need as
it has been expressed and is now percieved.

> I wonder if anyone else on this list has had any thoughts on this matter...
dp I hope to see more.
> Sincerely,
> Charles F. Munat
> Seattle, Washington

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Received on Saturday, 21 October 2000 23:46:42 UTC

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