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RE: Challenge: Defining accessibility

From: Timothy Stephen Springer <timsp@ssbtechnologies.com>
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 10:03:34 -0700
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, "WAI Interest Group \(E-mail\)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NDBBJIMIALKAIHGBAMLKGEPGCDAA.timsp@ssbtechnologies.com>
	I have always considered the Web Accessibility Initiative to be concerned
with universal access, rather than specifically with access for the disabled
community.  The guidelines, when drastically oversimplified, basically state
that the same information should be available to all people regardless of
browsing platform.
	In our [my company's] quest to convince businesses to become accessible we
always use examples of the external (read: non-disability related) benefits
of accessibility.  An individual driving cannot look at a screen, meaning in
that reference frame his usage pattern mimics that of an blind individual
using a text-to-speech system.  Individuals receiving content on WAP
devices, via content-translation gateways, likewise encounter some of the
same problems as disabled users.
	The point here is that accessibility should not be limited to the disabled
community.  I have always conceived of the web accessibility initiative as a
body that pursues universal accessibility.  To this end any definition of
accessibility that limits the applicable scope to members of a particular
community tends to weaken the overall case for accessibility.  Phrased
differently: the disabled community is a subset of the overall community
that would benefit from accessible websites.
	Does this undercut the role the disabled community should play in the
initiative?  Not at all! The disabled community stands to benefit the most
from the drive for accessible sites and in the community the "lack of
access" is most distinct.   However to specifically limit the scope to
disability makes the case for accessibility much weaker.  We should, as a
group, communicate to the world that the impact of having an accessible site
has a wider scope than solely a particular community.
	With that in mind I would propose the following definition of web

The availability of the same information to all users regardless of browsing

	I don't really like the word constraints but "idiosyncratic browsing
technology" didn't fly.  Either way this is how I have always conceived of
accessibility.  I view it as being applicable to everyone at sometime or
another and would hate to see it limited to a particular subset of users.
It think doing so would damage the WAI and move us further away from the
goal of ubiquitous accessible sites.


-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Charles F. Munat
Sent: Monday, October 23, 2000 8:21 PM
To: WAI Interest Group (E-mail)
Subject: Challenge: Defining accessibility

I think that part of the reason for our heated debates regarding graphics is
a difference in the way we view accessibility. It seems to me that a
prerequisite to ensuring accessibility on the Web is to understand what we
mean by it. So here is my challenge:

Who on this list can give a comprehensive definition for accessibility? What
*exactly* does it mean? And accessibility for whom? To what?

(With regard to the Web, of course).

Perhaps by getting the differences in our fundamental views out in the open,
we can begin to work toward a consensus as to what we are striving to
achieve. That will give us a clear yardstick for measuring how well our
guidelines help us to approach that ideal.

Any takers for the defining accessibility challenge? Step right up and take
a shot.

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Tuesday, 24 October 2000 13:05:37 UTC

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