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RE: FW: Disturbing trend in tables

From: Bailey, Bruce <Bruce_Bailey@ed.gov>
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 11:59:36 -0500
Message-ID: <5DCA49BDD2B0D41186CE00508B6BEBD0300505@wdcrobexc01.ed.gov>
To: "'Frank Tobin'" <ftobin@uiuc.edu>
Cc: "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
> The relations between accessibility and validity can be interesting.
> Personally, I came to this list not knowing that the term "accessibility"
> in the list name referred primarily to those visually impaired.
> 
This group/list does implicitly define "accessibility" in terms of its
relations to folks with disabilities.  I do not, however, think it fair to
characterize this interest as "primarily to those who are visually
impaired".  Our interest in serving the blind is quite keen, but many here
are easily insulted when it is suggested that we make those accommodations
at the expense of others with different kinds of disabilities.

> Accessibility for me takes on a different connotation; for me,
> accessibility means "machine accessible".  In my opinion, at the base of
> communication lies content, meaning, and structure; what tools such as
> XHTML Strict do is give us the means to define highly-machine-accessible
> content, meaning, and structure (I'll abbreviate these three as CMS).
> 
Certainly, there is a great deal of overlap between "machine accessible" and
"accessible to people with disabilities".  That link is explicitly stated in
many WAI documents.

> Given that machines can access CMS well, we have the tools to write
> software with a fair amount of ease that tranlate the CMS into other
> media, including media meant for the human senses, such as sight and
> hearing.  Without the machine-accessible CMS, however, writing tools to
> translate CMS from human-media to human-media is extremely difficult (as
> symptomized in the difficulty of creating good artifical intelligence).
> 
> I don't think it's really "by accident" that those who emphasize validity
> instead of accessibility happen to create accessible documents; the
> validity enables current and future accessibilty, due to its nature.  The
> tools to make the CMS accessible may not have been written yet, but given
> validity, it can be done easily.
> 
I agree.  On the other hand, unfortunately, it isn't too difficult to find
people who are hostile to the idea of accommodations designed for people
with disabilities.  Some of these folks react to being publicly shamed.
Some respond to threats of lawsuits.  Some, I would argue, could be swayed
by the arguments for validity (forgetting any relation to disability-related
accessibility).  I think we could do more to reach this last group, and I
think this group might, in fact, be at least as large an audience as the
other two.  I have no evidence for this whatsoever, but I think it is
something we should be considering more than we do.  Most of here don't care
WHY organizations make their sites accessible -- we just care that it gets
done!  (This practical any-means-to-the-ends attitude makes Kynn's "Selfish
Reasons for Accessible Web Authoring"
<http://aware.hwg.org/why/selfish.html> one of my favorite resources.)

> On the other hand, if you emphasize accessibility over validity, I feel
> you are catering more to the technology that we currently have at hand to
> deal with human-media, and future attempts to translate the human media
> into other languages/media becomes hampered, since it isn't necessarily
> structured.
> 
I agree with this too.  On the other hand, most organizations seem to have
bought into the idea that discriminating against people with disabilities is
a bad practice.  The Florida election not withstanding, discriminating
against machines seems to be largely acceptable.

> Unfortunately, we currently don't have many datapoints of media to analyze
> the situation with, but I feel it's likely that other forms of
> communication (networked neural implants?) will arise and make the term
> "accessibility" take on a whole new connotation.
> 
That would be quite interesting!  Among other things, it is actually a take
on this that provide a strong argument for the importance of textual
equivalents for non-readers.  A machine-understandable web holds the
possibility of being dynamically and automatically reformulated into a
version that is accessible to people with severe learning impairments or
cognitive disabilities.  The current accommodation techniques (for this
audience) of using lots of images (and confounding text with images)
postpone this possible future.
Received on Tuesday, 23 January 2001 12:00:03 GMT

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