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RE: Section 508 article on CNN

From: Jo Miller <jo@bendingline.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 17:31:33 -0400
Message-Id: <p05100321b75419c82d10@[192.168.1.101]>
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I would have to agree with all of Kynn's well-made points about the 
failings of this article in particular. I got the impression while 
reading it that the CNN tech editor picked a reporter and barked, "I 
need an article on 508! You have three hours!" And to be fair to the 
reporter, I bet this is close to the sort of time pressure she was 
facing.

My gripe with almost all the 508 reporting I've read is the apparent 
journalistic need to paint a picture of federal workers running 
around like chickens with their heads cut off and of bumbling 
agencies making sweeping policy decisions based on a misunderstanding 
of the regulations. There were a couple of articles in Federal 
Computer Week back in March/April which may have set this tone for 
subsequent stories on 508. Or perhaps it's just the generic urge to 
sensationalize.

Those of us who work with government agencies day in and day out know 
that federal workers never, ever run. There are people in the 
government who work tirelessly to promote and support standards, as 
Jim pointed out. There are others--alas, too many--who respond to 
these efforts with indolence, apathy, resentment, buck-passing, or 
the entrenched, cynical bureaucrat's philosophy, "this too shall 
pass." Some are simply confused, and others work quietly and 
systematically (and often quite creatively) towards compliance as 
best they can, using the resources at their disposal.

There are private companies making strenuous efforts to provide 
accessibility tools and software improvements as quickly as possible 
(Macromedia and Adobe come to mind). There are also the usual 
drooling bands of opportunistic wolverines circling the beltway, 
sniffing the irresistable combination of tax money + ignorance + new 
regulations, knowing that many agencies can and will pay outrageous 
sums to anyone who offers a magic 508 bullet.

There's a far more useful and accurate story to be written, if anyone 
cared to. Only the snake-oil salesmen have anything to gain by the 
"508 is scary! Panic!" angle. (OK, one government worker did call me 
four times today in a bit of a panic, but thousands of others didn't.)

I liked the New York Times piece.

Jo


At 13:37 -0700 6/18/01, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
>This is an explanation of why I was critical of the CNN article at
>http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/industry/06/15/web.site.accessibility.idg/index.html
>
>
<snip>

>The quotes by Compaq are good, though.  I don't want to give you
>the idea that I totally hated this article, but I just feel that
>the reporter's slant was poorly chosen and a bit too obvious ("508
>is scary!") and there are a number of errors and omissions that
>should have been caught (and attributions demanded).
--
Jo Miller
jo@bendingline.com
Received on Monday, 18 June 2001 17:42:50 GMT

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