W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 2000

RE: Accessibility, discrimination, and WCAG 2.0

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 23:29:17 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 11:29 PM 10/21/2000 , Charles F. Munat wrote:
>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?

This is actually a good question to pose and we should be careful
that we don't dismiss it too easily with a glib answer.

As part of the web design process, you make a site which can be
used by your chosen audiences.  If it can be used by other audiences,
that's good, but it's not the main purpose; the primary audiences
and the site owner's choices for the site's function determine the
purpose of the site.

In nearly all cases, the primary audiences will _not_ fall along
disability lines; if you are making a web site on topic <X>, there's
usually a good chance that the audience consisting of "people who
care about topic <X>" will be fairly evenly distributed.  This
means that you can't exclude specific disability types; they are
part of your core audience.  (This is a stumbling block for many
designers who want to justify their lack of accessibility; they
feel that by saying "I have a specific audience in mind" that it
is okay to say "...and that doesn't include disabled people."
They couldn't be more wrong!)

However, in a few cases there -are- some sites which, because of
the content, simply can't be made to be useful by people with
certain disabilities, or -won't- be useful to those people.  For
example, a web site that teaches -- through the use of a Flash
program -- how to drive defensively along a crowded, accident
prone street.  Or for an example that hits closer to home, the
Virtual Dog Show site is set up as a photographic contest.  It is
difficult to imagine how a blind user could get full benefit from
either site, even with the most accessible coding possible.

>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."

Actually, David, this concept violates a number of good principles
for usability and audience-centric design.  Any site that is designed
"for anyone and everyone!" will most likely be a very poor site.
My web management course stressed not only defining which audiences
you want, but also which audiences you don't want -- the ones who
you don't want wasting their own time by coming to your site; they
should be able to tell quickly if they can't find what they need
there, just as other users should be able to tell if they _can_ use
the site.

>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.

Yeah, this discussion came up recently on another mailing list I'm
on.  Basically, such sites do have it in their best interests to
use standard practices of accessibility, but they have no obligation
(legal or possibly moral) to maintain the same level of accessibility
as sites which provide services to the public.

I got dinged myself, for my pages on my site which show photographs
from my recent trip to Europe, and the house which my wife and I are
buying.  You can view these at http://kynn.com/photos/ -- originally
I just had the raw directory listing, but I found a freeware Mac
program which makes index pages and thumbnail images.

The problem is that it doesn't insert alt text.  My excuses are as

(1) It's not my program, I didn't write it, and this is just a quick-
     and-dirty job anyway.
(2) If someone can't see images, well, they're going to be disappointed
     with _any_ display of photographs, aren't they?
(3) The file names are meant to be descriptive, and thus are nearly as
     useful as any alt attributes I'd add anyway.
(4) I don't have the time to go back and do the job the right way, so
     a half-assed attempt is better than nothing.
(5) It's just a personal site and nobody really cares that much; I'm
     not denying any services or vital information to the public.

I'm actually not that happy with any of these excuses, although #4 is
closest to satisfying my guilty urges.


Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                    http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta               http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                      http://www.awarecenter.org/
What's on my bookshelf?                         http://kynn.com/books/
Received on Sunday, 22 October 2000 02:43:20 UTC

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