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RE: Accessibility, discrimination, and WCAG 2.0

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 23:29:04 -0700
To: "'David Poehlman'" <poehlman@clark.net>
Cc: "'WAI Interest Group \(E-mail\)'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <002401c03bf1$6024de80$b021e7d8@aries>

"Charles F. Munat" wrote:
"It might be [unfair] 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."

David Poehlman replied:
"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."

Agreed. But that brings up the question: Is it the responsibility of the
site builder to make the site accessible for purposes other than its stated
purpose? OK, if you were helping to train a driver, that might make sense.
But if this site is to train drivers does the site owner have an obligation
to make the site useful for potential authors and anyone else who wants to
check it out?

It's just an example and obviously not a very good one. It's difficult to
think of instances where being blind would obviate all need for information.
But you made another point later that bears on this. I'll comment further

David Poehlman wrote:
"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."

I have a really hard time with this concept. Wasting space? How can one
waste space on an infinite resource? It seems to me that the presumption
here is that by making documents accessible via the Web, you are publishing
them. I don't know how the law views this, but that seems a bit restrictive
to me.

With the increase of full-time, high-bandwidth connections, it gets even
trickier. My computer has been assigned a static IP address. I have a web
server on my computer for my own personal use. I like my brother to be able
to pull stuff off my server, so I've allowed access via the Web. Nothing on
my server is really personal, so I haven't password protected the pages. Or
maybe I don't even know how to do that.

Now, let's say that somehow a spider found my pages and indexed them. These
are really for my personal use. Am I now responsible for making sure that
they are accessible just because you might stumble across them someday?
Isn't that like saying that my front door has to be accessible so that
paraplegic solicitors can ring my bell? I'm not asking them to come visit

It's different if one is running a business. Clearly, businesses should not
discriminate unfairly. But what if I'm just putting up pages for fun?

Please note that I'm not advocating any particular position here, just
wondering about the limitations.

Look at it another way. Do I have to post my pages in all 4000+ languages?
Obviously, that's impossible. But a speaker of virtually any language might
stumble across my pages, so don't I have an obligation to him?

You see what I mean? It is a very complicated issue. When it's just a matter
of making the document accessible, it's not that difficult. But when it
comes to making it *understandable*, well, that's a lot more complicated.

I want to encourage as many people to come on-line as possible. I draw a
distinction between commercial sites and non-commercial sites. I agree with
you, David, that commercial sites should be built by professionals, and that
professionals should have to know what they're doing. And I think that
commercial sites ought to be accessible AND understandable *within reason*.
It's the "within reason" part that's complicated. What is reasonable?

It seems to me that this is where audience comes in to play. If my audience
is the members of my country club (I don't really belong to one) and none of
them speaks Swahili, why should I have to put up a Swahili version of the
site? And if one of them does speak Swahili, does that mean that I must
include a Swahili version?

As for non-commercial sites, I think we should let anyone do pretty much
anything they want. I don't want to tell the man with Down's Syndrome that
he can't put up a personal page because he doesn't understand HTML well
enough. And I don't think that the deaf woman I mentioned should have to
include audio on her personal site if it's her *personal* site.

But I'm open to other ideas... (I'm sort of thinking out loud here.)

Charles F. Munat
Seattle, Washington
Received on Sunday, 22 October 2000 02:24:03 UTC

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